POLK DIRECTS ATTENTION TO DATA WORK

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R.L. Polk & Co. is getting out of the full-service direct marketing business as part of a plan to bolster its core operations, gathering and interpreting data.

Detroit-based Polk is also streamlining its management structure, organizing along functional business processes instead of separate units focused on vertical markets and product types.

"We will focus on what we do best-gathering and assimilating information, and turning it into workable information products for our customers," said Stephen Polk, chairman-CEO. "Advertising agencies we used to compete with should view us differently now that we're not going head-on-head with their creative programs."

Agencies were sometimes reluctant to involve Polk in a project because the company could end up competing for a bigger slice of the business, said Ben Addoms, senior VP-data acquisition.

"As our customers have become more sophisticated, they shop for the best in each category," Mr. Addoms said. "We decided our place was to have the best data and the best ability to work with other agencies to make that data and information useful to customers."

Polk supplies motor vehicle registration data to the automotive industry, publishes city and bank directories, and supplies detailed consumer analysis to more than 90 marketers. It also offers direct marketers data such as address coding guides that match postal addresses with U.S. Census data.

The privately held company reported an 8.1% gain in 1993 revenue to $335 million. Polk employs about 6,000 people, and operates more than 50 office and production facilities in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Germany and Barbados.

Up to now, Polk has combined its data and mailing list capabilities with in-house creative services, printing and mailing. The phase-out of those operations will result in closing of offices in Washington and Houston, as well as staff reductions.

There are four functional areas in the company's new organization: account management, business development, database development and information resources.

The structure integrates former divisions, subsidiaries and business operations. The previously distinct businesses included Automotive Marketing Services, Statistical Services, National Demographics & Lifestyles, Polk Direct, City Directory and Geographic Data Technology.

As part of the reorganization, Arthur Olsen was appointed president-chief operating office, from exec VP-president of the City Directory division. Mr. Addoms was promoted to senior VP-data acquisition from VP-database marketing for NDL, and Tim Prunk became senior VP-account management, from president-CEO of NDL.

Gary Erickson continues as chief information officer, and Polk hasn't yet named a head of business development.

Mr. Polk said the new structure means a client won't have to deal with several Polk units to get information from a variety of sources. For instance, an automaker might start with registration data to examine someone's past buying patterns, and combine it with lifestyle information to anticipate changes in circumstance that would influence future purchases.

Keeping pace with changing technology and eventual international expansion are Polk goals going forward.

"Many of our customers are getting global in their approach to marketing, and they want to be able to work with someone they trust across those markets," Mr. Addoms said. "We'll probably be looking carefully at partnership opportunities [overseas] to take advantage of existing business connections."

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