New Type of Holding Company Emerges in 'Transaction-Driven' Marketing

SolutionSet MediaWhiz Buys Promo/Shopper Marketing Giant D.L. Ryan, Forms Hyper Marketing

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In a sign that shopper marketing continues as one of the de rigueur disciplines, SolutionSet MediaWhiz has snapped up D.L. Ryan Cos., which owns shopper firm Ryan Partnership, among others.

The deal marks the creation of a new-school holding company. The companies will combine their efforts in Hyper Marketing, an umbrella company that will comprise Solution Set, MediaWhiz, Ryan Partnership and Catapult. Lake Capital, a private-equity firm in Chicago that bought a stake in SolutionSet in 2006, will have the majority interest in Hyper Marketing, with the remainder held by senior executives.

"As you look at the world of marketing evolving, it's going from trying to change people's minds and attitudes to [trying to] change people's behavior," said Zain Raj, president-CEO at the SolutionSet MediaWhiz Partnership, who will now become CEO of Hyper Marketing. "Agencies that can drive transactions are the ones that are becoming more valuable to clients."

The deal -- which took about three months to complete -- signals adland's growing interest in shoring up its capabilities to help marketers drive retail purchase decisions, whether through analysis, consumer behavior research, or in-store and point-of -sale advertising.

It also signals that , like 2011, 2012 will be another hot year for acquisitions. This is the third transaction announced in the first 10 days, on the heels of Dentsu America's buy of creative shop M.L. Rogers and MDC Partners' acquisition of media agency R.J. Palmer.

Financial terms were not disclosed. According to the Ad Age DataCenter, in 2010, D.L. Ryan Cos. had revenue of $105.7 million, MediaWhiz had $36 .4 million and SolutionSet had $83.1 million. But Mr. Raj estimates the companies' combined revenue at a little north of $400 million.

The deal adds 600 employees to SolutionSet MediaWhiz, while Hyper Marketing has a workforce of more than 1,300 people in 19 cities. Its activities include direct and digital marketing, digital media-planning and buying, and shopper marketing and promotions.

Mr. Raj describes what he is building as a "future-driven model" willing to leave the companies under its umbrella discrete. At the same time, however, Hyper Marketing won't be hands off but will put together cross-unit solutions for clients when asked. Those clients include AT&T , American Express, Adidas, Cisco, Dell , eBay, Energizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Kellogg's, Office Depot, The Home Depot and Unilever .

Other companies trying to create umbrella organizations housing various marketing firms and to challenge the models of larger firms (such as WPP, Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group) include LBI and Cheil Worldwide and Project Worldwide.

Paul Kramer, D.L. Ryan Cos.' president and chief operating officer, will be Hyper Marketing's president. Tom Lanzetta and Michael Miller of SolutionSet MediaWhiz Partnership become its COO and chief marketing officer, respectively.

Other deals could follow, as Hyper Marketing continues to look at acquisitions in the analytics and digital space, Mr. Raj said. Although the company isn't actively working on anything right now, he said, "we have the resources and the interest, so the question is can we find something that makes sense for us."

Contributing: Bradley Johnson

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