Connery spearheads JWT's direct strategy

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J.walter thompson Co. is working to bolster its U.S. direct marketing business by naming the first president of its direct shop, ThompsonConnect.

Alice Connery, who arrived at ThompsonConnect three weeks ago from Rapp Collins Worldwide, New York, is the first president to oversee direct marketing at JWT since the division was formed in 1998.

The opportunity to leverage direct marketing and database within a large general ad agency was what attracted Ms. Connery, 43, to ThompsonConnect.

"There's no other opportunity in the traditional direct marketing business like this one, because all these agencies have big, established, well-known direct companies. At JWT, it's really just emerging now," she said.

ThompsonConnect has 34 offices worldwide, but just four are in the U.S. -- Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and New York.

$462 MILLION IN BILLINGS

The company had $462 million in worldwide billings in 1999. U.S. billings accounted for $132 million, or 28.6%, of that figure. Revenue climbed 20% last year in the U.S. to $19.8 million and 136% outside the country to $49.5 million.

ThompsonConnect ranks No. 53 among U.S. marketing services agencies, according to Advertising Age's latest Marketing Services Report (see Special Report in this issue starting after Page 50). The company is No. 10 among direct shops when compared by non-U.S. revenue. ThompsonConnect clients include Ford Motor Co., Kraft Foods, Merrill Lynch & Co., Qwest Communications, Shell Oil Co. and Siemens.

Ms. Connery, who's based in and oversees the New York office, initially will focus her attention on work in New York and Detroit, as well as developing a strategic plan and hiring experts in data analysis and database work. The New York office has been without a general manager since Philip Conklin left earlier this year for an undisclosed e-commerce job. Michael Graham also departed this year as CEO of ThompsonConnect Worldwide for a different position within JWT parent WPP Group.

Ms. Connery expects ThompsonConnect to do a lot of work with Qwest, the telco that will merge with U S West this year, as well as with Merrill Lynch, but said her priority isn't to garner new direct-only business for the shop.

EMPHASIS ON INTEGRATION

"The best work that we're going to do is in an integrated setting," she said. "It's more fun anyway. I can do direct marketing. To me the fun part is to work with people who don't do what I do."

The lack of a close general-advertising sibling was something Ms. Connery missed in her senior VP position at Omnicom Group's Rapp Collins.

"Here there's the chance to be part of this great agency and leverage database marketing," she said.

Before beginning her fives years at Rapp Collins, Ms. Connery spent eight years at Wunderman Cato Johnson, now Young and Rubicam's Impiric, and five years at BBDO Direct.

So far, Ms. Connery has found the general JWT account groups to be committed to the company's total branding mantra.

"The creative and account people have a much more holistic view of marketing than I've seen in the general agency world in 20 years," she said. "They're hiring people with that talent and passion who don't have all the answers but are searching for them."

STRATEGIC CHANGE

That's a change from JWT's past attempts at building a strong direct marketing practice.

Direct marketing failed to take root in the past because of a lack of commitment and interest by client account managers, said a former JWT Direct executive.

While Mr. Graham said in 1998 the goal was to make ThompsonConnect bigger than the general ad agency, Ms. Connery said she doesn't aspire to make hers one of the largest direct shops. Instead, she hopes to find a way to create better integrated marketing programs.

"You can't out- OgilvyOne OgilvyOne," she said. "We're going to be something different."

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