About the Open Minds

Our Mission

To help brands grow and connect.
To help them get the right information about their audiences.
To turn information into insight and make insights actionable.

Our Philosophy

We believe in "jujitsu strategy" (tipping the audience in a direction they're willing to lean), "shiatsu research" (pressing on the knot until it opens up - often with multiple methodologies), and "the tao of facilitation" (finding the way that works for the company's culture).

MEET THE OPEN MINDS

ROBIN HAFITZ
CEO of Open Mind Strategy

Robin grew up in an eclectic combination of locations - Nigeria, Washington, DC, and Martha's Vineyard, but mostly Montana. She went east on a scholarship, and after graduating Magna cum Laude from Yale, headed to New York to try her hand as an artist.

There, she found her way into advertising. Soon, a new discipline, Account Planning, captured her imagination and gave her the opportunity to apply her combination of creative and intellectual talents. As an early American in this British-dominated discipline, Robin had the opportunity to work with some of the best talent in the advertising industry.

After a stint at Chiat/Day, Robin joined Creative star Nick Cohen as Co-Chair of start-up Mad Dogs & Englishmen in 1992. Under their leadership, this strategically-driven creative boutique won awards for both creativity and strategic excellence for clients such as AOL MovieFone, YooHoo Chocolate Drink, Blue Moon Beer, The Village Voice, and The Economist. As a “media neutral” agency before it was fashionable, Mad Dogs was a dot-com darling, and grew to over 70 people. After the dot-com meltdown, Robin diversified Mad Dogs' offering by opening Mad Logic, a Planning consultancy, which came to specialize in insights for media companies. Using innovative high-tech and high-touch research techniques, Mad Logic solved challenges for companies like the LATimes.com, Newsweek, Univision, Sirius Satellite Radio, USA Network, SyFy, and Viacom. At Mad Dogs Enterprises, Robin was proud to be able to train many talented planners who still today work in some of the best agencies in the world.

Robin and Nick closed down Mad Dogs Enterprises in 2005. “Thirteen years is about as long as you can expect a good-sized dog to live,” Nick said at the time. Robin next started Open Mind Strategy, building on the expertise of Mad Logic in the media arena. Open Mind retained clients like USA, SyFy, and MTV Networks, and helped a host of television channels, print companies, and web-based businesses to do more successful business by better connecting with their audiences. Among other achievements, Robin’s team developed the still successful “Characters” positioning that helped USA capture the lead in cable. One of the first research companies to consider consumers as co-creators, Open Mind did over $2 million in sales in its first year, and soon expanded beyond media to experience brands, such as travel destinations and retail brands. During this period, OMS also had the opportunity to team with eatbigfish, helping companies like Cole Haan, eBay, Kodak, and Unilever successfully apply “challenger brand” principles to innovating their businesses.

In 2007, Robin joined kb+p as Managing Partner and Chief Strategic Officer, and OMS became one of kb+p’s specialist divisions. Working across all of kb’s disciplines, Robin was instrumental in winning business from clients such as Wendy’s International, Avon Fragrances, Starz, and Bloomberg, and in developing successful insight-driven strategies for clients such as Panasonic, Kao, Diageo, and Mohegan Sun. Meanwhile, Open Mind helped solve problems for Comedy Central, TVLand, Yahoo!, NBC, and others.

Robin left what is now kbs+p at the end of 2009, and in Fall of 2010 set up Open Mind Strategy as an independent LLC. Recent assignments have included work for Yahoo!, The Food Network, Travel Channel, VNSNY, PBM, USA, several non-profits and a number of advertising agencies.

Robin is a member of the New York Entrepreneurs Organization. She sits on the National Advertising Review Board. She served for over five years on the board of the AAAA’s Account Planning Committee, including two years as Co-Chair. She has been a regular teacher of the 4A’s “Quantitative Literacy for Planners” course, was an Executive in Residence at the University of Oregon’s Advertising Program, and has taught at VCU and the Miami Ad School. She has spoken frequently at research and marketing conferences on strategic development, new media, and teens, has judged numerous award shows, and was named America’s “Iron Planner” by the US APG in 2004, a title so far unchallenged.

ANDREW HAFITZ
Co-Owner, Film Editor

Andrew Hafitz has been editing films since 1995. Along the way, he's collaborated with some of the leading directors in the New York independent film scene, including Whit Stillman (Damsels in Distress, 2012; The Last Days of Disco, 1998), Lodge Kerrigan (Keane, 2004), and Larry Clark (Ken Park, 2002; Bully, 2001). Two of his films have premiered in competition at Sundance: Braden King's Here (2011), a metaphysical road movie filmed on location in Armenia, and Cruz Angeles's Don't Let Me Drown (2009), shot primarily in Brooklyn. Don't Let Me Drown went on to win audience and jury at awards at many festivals, including Best Film and Best Editing at the Woodstock Film Festival in 2009. Andy's documentary credits include the street basketball movie Soul in the Hole (1997), directed by Danielle Gardner, and a number of David Schisgall films including the feature The Lifestyle: Group Sex in the Suburbs (1999) and the MTV show "True Life: I'm in Iraq," which won the Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Network News Documentary in 2005. A graduate of Yale University with a degree in comparative literature, Andy lives in Manhattan and Willow, NY, with his wife, Robin.

ALLISON O'KEEFE
SVP, Managing Director of Research & Strategy

Allison O’Keefe Wright is an expert in consumer culture and media. She has spent her career studying consumers and consulting major brands on strategy and positioning, product development, marketing and communication geared at various demographic groups and the illusive millennial target in particular. Allison has a unique ability to humanize data and insight and she has honed the skill of using her sense of humor to not only drawn truth from consumers, but to inspire her clients and partners…even the most skeptical “creative types”…to delight in new understanding. Allison has received global recognition for her youth expertise and her work has been highlighted by numerous newspapers and magazines including The Economist, Brand Republic and Women’s Wear Daily, to name a few. She has been featured on radio programs such as BBC World Service and has appeared in segments on CNN television programs Dolans Unscripted and The Biz.

Allison is Senior Vice President, Managing Director of Research and Strategy at Open Mind Strategy. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to leverage her diverse experience from both agency and “client side” as an effective partner who can approach client business issues and goals with valuable perspective from both sides of the aisle.

On the “client side”, Allison was most recently Vice President, Research and Strategic Planning for Capitol Music Group (formerly EMI Music North America) heading up both research and media services for the label. Building from a blank canvas, Allison put Consumer Insight at the heart of the company, establishing her division as a key function across all critical business units and informing the transformation and evolution of the company at large. In this role, she delivered strategic and tactical value for major artists such as Katy Perry, Coldplay, David Guetta, Jennifer Lopez, Norah Jones, and Rod Stewart among many others, as well as for catalog artists like The Beatles, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Frank Sinatra, to name only a few. Allison put fans at the center of CMG’s processes via consumer segmentation, online fan community exploration, brand/partnership analysis and creative and image testing. In addition to her work in North America, she worked in concert with global offices and with industry associations constructing major studies to analyze the music marketplace on a global scale.

Prior to Capitol/EMI, Allison served as Vice President, Strategic Insight and Research at MTV, where she was responsible for consumer insights and strategy for MTV, MTV2, and mtvU, across all screens. Initiatives that Allison spearheaded for MTV included large-scale consumer lifestyle investigations, brand and buzz tracking, pilot testing, and website usability. Her landmark research study “Crossing the Line: Exposing Millennial Digital Abuse” was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2010 CTAM Case Study competition and informed the establishment of MTV’s Thin Line pro-social campaign. Among the MTV shows that Allison tested and helped usher into the channel was Jersey Shore, a pivotal turning point in the channels recent history with regard to viewership and cultural relevance.

Allison co-wrote a section of the book “Beyond the Usability Lab: Conducting Large-Scale User Experience Studies”, distributed by Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, which detailed the groundbreaking usability research she spearheaded to inform the re-launch and evolution of MTV.com.

In her agency days, Allison was Director and Global Editor for strategic consultancy Henley Centre HeadlightVision. There she authored the book D_Code 5, an investigation of leading edge youth culture and marketing around the world and travelled the globe running innovation workshops for major companies including Coca-Cola and Unilever. Allison also worked as a strategic planner at Publicis, D’Arcy and Young and Rubicam where she contributed to the strategic growth of a diverse range of brands from Heineken/Amstel to Sony to Crest to Campbells, and many more.

Allison is a regular speaker in the research conference circuit and has lectured on her insight work at Wharton School of Business. She lives in Ridgewood, NJ with her husband, Darren, and their daughter, Mary Ann, who is already a music and television fanatic.

LIANNA (LEE) WILLOUGHBY
VP, Director of Research & Strategy

Lianna has a background in Film and Spanish language and culture. While working on an independent documentary film in 2005, Lianna realized that her true passion was finding the unique stories of the people featured in the films. She decided to make a change and pursue a career that would allow her to continue to explore how people think and feel, and why they do the things they do, but with a different spin.

Intuition, creativity and a little luck landed Lianna at Open Mind Strategy (OMS), where she's "grown up" professionally, gaining experience in all aspects of the research process and learning to translate human understanding into brand strategy.

As VP, Director of Research at Open Mind Strategy, Lianna oversees both qualitative and quantitative research endeavors, balancing her time as a project director, researcher and thought partner. She works closely with clients to ensure the research is tailored to their unique needs and objectives, including recent projects with USA Today, Amazon, Syfy, Yahoo!, Travel Channel and Food Network.

Prior to joining OMS, Lianna developed her skill for internal team management as an assistant in Robin's planning department at KB+P where she steered jobs for clients, including the NBC Olympics, CMT and Comedy Central. Moving into a role as a planner at KB+P, Lianna worked with creative teams, developing strategies and providing key insights for clients including Wendy’s, Capital One and Starz.

While Lianna is adept at managing the operational details of OMS's diverse roster of research projects, her favorite part of the job is still that moment when a consumer randomly surprises and fascinates her, offering a priceless insight that can change the way that she and her clients think.

LEAH PERLMUTTER
Associate Brand Strategist

Leah was born in New York City and grew up in Seattle, Washington. She could not wait to get back to New York, and as soon as she had the chance she moved east to attend Barnard College. She graduated with a Bachelors Degree in cultural anthropology, culminating in a senior thesis that explored consumer behavior and marketing of intimate products. During her time at Barnard, she also worked as a receptionist and assistant in the admissions office, which included giving tours of the college.

Upon graduation, Leah searched for ways to make use of her anthropology education. After volunteering for a science-education non-profit, followed by a brief stint in accounting, Leah found her way to Open Mind Strategy, where she is very excited to exercise the anthropological part of her brain and assist in any way possible.

MANDY PENKSA
Senior Brand Strategist

After a twenty-two year childhood in Texas, a brief stint in San Francisco and seven wonderful New York years, Mandy finds herself in Chicago.

Mandy’s a true researcher with an unconventional mind. She’s fascinated by what comes out of people’s mouths and is dedicated to creating methodologies that uncover audience, brand and category truths. To her, a solid strategy may be wicked or it might be wild, but it works because it hits people’s hearts.

Apart from OMS, she’s strategized at giant agencies with giant clients (McCann Erickson, General Mills, avisbudget) and teentsy agencies who specialize in non-profiteering and international brand launches (TURF, The College Board, Weleda).

She’s rejoined OMS to be with like-minded storytellers.

JOSH HOREN
Exec. Asst./Junior Brand Strategist

Josh Horen was born in New York City and grew up in Palo Alto, California. He returned to the East Coast to attend Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in economics and political science. Inspired by his education, Josh founded and directed several after-school tutoring programs while in Baltimore. After working with the Open Minds as a new-media research intern, Josh was certain that he belonged back in New York, on the Open Mind Strategy team. Josh is thrilled to have a job that allows him to continue studying patterns of human behavior through a creative and analytic lens.

MARJORIE SPITZ
Strategic Partner & Project Director

Marjorie’s marketing, communications, event and development expertise is a result of almost 20 years of passionate commitment to building brands and helping corporations and organizations maximize their potential. Having worked as an advertising executive, marketing and communications consultant, strategist and executive director, Marjorie understands the multifaceted efforts needed to create innovative programs that yield success, and has the know-how and can-do attitude to achieve the impossible.

She is known as a “mini SWAT team” who can handle whatever challenge is put to her, with a smile. Through her work with Open Mind Strategy, Marjorie has served clients ranging from MTV Networks and NBC Olympics, to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Marjorie has a BS in Marketing and Management from SUNY Albany. She spent her advertising days at Ogilvy & Mather Direct, Kobs and Draft, Deutsch, Kirshenbaum Bond and Partners and Mad Dogs & Englishmen, dabbled in the dot-com revolution at zUniversity, and started her non-profit career in 2001, working on such issues as gun violence prevention, health, and child protection.

She recently launched Swim Free, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health improvement of children and adults through swimming, is a Red Cross volunteer and has done triathlons to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Marjorie currently resides on the upper west side of Manhattan and enjoys yoga, travel, and time at her jewel box by the sea in Montauk.

NORA SZILAGYI
Videographer

Nora comes from a multicultural background, speaking six languages and having studied in top universities in Europe. She settled in New York, finishing her studies as a film major at The New School. She started her career in video journalism and documentaries, and has worked with top ad agencies and research companies in the New York City area.

Currently, she is a video producer, shooter, editor, and graphic designer in the research field, creating video for companies that want to be inspired by bringing their consumers to life. Naturally, with documentary film and journalism experience, her shooting style is documentary-like, and her shooting vibe is unobtrusive on the set, allowing her to capture slice-of-life moments. Her unique flexibility allows her to wear many hats and solve problems across the map quickly, effectively, and logistically.

 

Some of the companies we've worked with

NBC USA HBO Nicktoons Nestle Yahoo inHD Univision Newsweek Little Action Lifetime Movie Channel Comedy Central Network Food Network USA Today A&E Clear Channel