Player Profile: A 'big personality' seeks kindred souls at Deutsch

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Ian Baer feels like he's back in New York, and he loves it. The only difference is that he'll be cruising to his new house in the Santa Monica, Calif., Mountains in his black convertible-a Mitsubishi, one of the biggest clients handled by his new professional home, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles.

Mr. Baer, 34, has landed at a high-profile agency, now that all eyes are on "the New Interpublic" and speculation whirls about how Deutsch-one of the newest and shiniest gems in the holding company's crown-will fit in. "Deutsch has had tremendous growth in recent years," said Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine. "It's one of the assets that is still growing at Interpublic this year."

Those who know Mr. Baer, the new exec VP-director of directDeutsch in Los Angeles, think the executive will fit in well at the agency, which follows Chairman-CEO Donny Deutsch's mantra: "big heart, big brains, thick skin and two degrees off center."

"People with big personalities like to be around people with big personalities," said Mr. Baer, who took the job of heading the office's direct-marketing division after an 18-month detour in Chicago, where he was president of Omnicom Group's Rapp Collins Worldwide.

Mr. Baer left Rapp in May, when the agency began to transition the Chicago office from a full-service direct-marketing agency to a support shop for regional assignments. Rapp, where Mr. Baer worked for about five years in Chicago and New York, offered him the opportunity to stay, but he jumped at the offer from Deutsch, where he sits on the six-person executive management team.

Deutsch Los Angeles Managing Partner-General Manager Mike Sheldon brought Mr. Baer on board because he thought the time was right to step up the agency's commitment to the discipline with a full-time executive. "We're finding that our clients are demanding more and better direct-marketing strategies, particularly in this economy where you are looking under every rock for more sales and more share and more bottom line," Mr. Sheldon said. "This is the muscle we need to build right now," he added.

Mr. Baer's initial priority is existing clients-DirecTV, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America and Sun America, all of which are integrated clients at Deutsch. In late June, however, DirecTV awarded a reported $30 million project for its direct-to-consumer sales channel to Rapp Collins, Dallas and Los Angeles. Deutsch, according to an executive close to the agency, chose not to participate.

Integration "seems to be a more natural fit [at Deutsch] than at other places that might make the same claim," said Michael Russell, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. "Sometimes companies talk a better game than they deliver, but Deutsch very clearly has always understood that you have to sell products as you brand them. There's a direct-marketing style to all of their advertising company," he said.

Mr. Sheldon estimated direct-marketing billings in the Los Angeles office to be about $70 million to $80 million, but said definitive numbers are elusive because the agency does not separate billings or revenue by discipline. The office's 2000 billings were $630 million, Mr. Sheldon said, accounting for almost 42% of Deutsch's total billings of $1.5 billion, according to Advertising Age figures.

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