ASPEN INTERACTIVE: Shop harbors first-class ambitions

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this is the first -- and last -- time Aspen Interactive will make the Top 10 of the Interactive 100. For parent Aspen Marketing Group in the next few months will give its i-shop a name that's trendier than Aspen Interactive.

"We just don't think it's hip and cool enough for this marketplace," says Neal Vitale, Aspen Marketing Group's president-CEO. "What you'll see is a simple, more memorable name."

The name change comes as Aspen Interactive moves beyond its roots as a promotions agency.

Privately held Aspen Marketing Group, founded in 1996, is a roll-up of 14 companies divided into five divisions (promotion, interactive, corporate identity, direct and, soon, meeting/events). Aspen Marketing is on the prowl for more and possibly bigger deals.


Aspen Interactive is a mini-roll-up of Phoneworks, whose roots are in providing phone-based, automated voice-response services, and B-12, a New York Web promotions shop with a background in liquor. Aspen Interactive also works with recent Aspen Marketing acquisition Creative Services International, a Boise, Idaho, company that works on tech-oriented events and trade shows.

Mr. Vitale says Aspen Interactive's rebranding could be a prelude to the interactive unit going public, though the i-shop would continue to work with other Aspen Marketing divisions.

The former Phoneworks, centerpiece of Aspen Interactive, got its start in 1981 by developing phone-based automated response services used in consumer promotions.

Brad Wendkos, founder of Phoneworks and CEO-chief creative officer of Aspen Interactive, says he's done more than 2,600 interactive campaigns with 300 brands of Fortune 500 companies. While Aspen Interactive has morphed to the Web, Mr. Wendkos notes 80% of his campaigns today also have a phone-response component as a way to reach the broadest audience.


Aspen Interactive emphasizes services based on proprietary technology; it has eight patents applied for or granted. It's looking to acquire more technology and services, such as e-mail offerings.

Aspen Interactive is moving to become a full-service, interactive-focused agency that deploys both interactive technology (Internet, phone, wireless) and traditional media. The central premise, Mr. Wendkos says, is always "the next 90 days" -- doing what it takes to

drive business during that short window.

Aspen Interactive does promotions for blue-chip clients, such as a Diet Coke rewards program for Coca-Cola Co. and sales incentives programs for Nokia.

The shop wants to pursue broad interactive agency of record assignments. It's doing that now for some dot-coms.

Aspen Interactive still must show it can integrate its offerings, but Mr. Wendkos is moving fast.

"We've got tons to do," he said in an airport cell phone interview, suspended for a few seconds while his phone went through the X-ray machine. "But it's far from being in a start-up or construction mode."

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