Pity poor Thomas Collins, who back in 1965 was one of the two name founders of the direct-marketing agency Rapp Collins. Last year, he saw his name dropped off the shingle of the Omnicom Group-owned agency at the worst of times: just as programs based on data and accountability become more and more central to the marketing universe.
|Illustration: Robin Eley|
The name change was only one example of the flux in 2008, which also included shuffling in Rapp's leadership ranks and in its client offering. Most importantly, last year Rapp continued to help redefine the idea of what a direct-marketing agency is by creating out-of-home and broadcast efforts along with traditional direct-mail and e-mail campaigns. Aubyn Thomas, senior VP-marketing services at Macy's, a new client for Rapp, acknowledged the agency's "expertise" in relationship marketing and its ability to understand the connection between advanced customer management and customer-development strategies. But it was Rapp's ability to carry out a multichannel initiative that help win it the retailer's business, the marketer said.
Rapp had an exceptional year on the new business front, with no significant losses. Aside from Macy's, it also won contracts from a number of blue-chip marketers, including Audi (multicountry), Exxon Mobil (global), General Electric (multicountry), Nokia (multicountry), PepsiCo (multicountry), Pfizer (multicountry), Sony (multicountry) and Unilever. For Johnson & Johnson, Rapp will be charged with segmenting activities for its McNeilLabs division. And clients such as Bayer, ING and Toyota grew their relationships with Rapp in 2008.
Rapp also underwent some internal changes, turning the reigns of creative development in its New York office over to a communications planner. And there were major realignments at the very top of the organization, including Bob Horvath being named global CEO and Paul Price joining the agency as global president. Loren Grossman was also elevated to global chief strategy officer.
Within Omnicom, the agency played a key role and had a major voice in the room at one of the biggest holding-company pitches to take place this year. As a result, the agency will also be charged with running segmenting activities globally for McNeil Labs, a division of Johnson & Johnson, in 2009.
Bigger seat at table
Mr. Price, global president of Rapp, said his agency's growing role in the marketing mix is due in large part to an increasing need for remedies to marketing dilemmas that traditional media techniques are unable to resolve.
"That's not to say that traditional media has fallen out of favor," Mr. Price said. "But there's a mind-set shift going on that has to do with the recognition that data-driven marketing services companies like ours can more readily obtain the sorts of insight and particularly establish the sort of accountability at the beginning of the planning and execution process."
"The digital platforms that are prospering out there ... are generating zillions of data points, and we are bringing either existing mathematic and analytic models, as well as new ones, to make sense of all this stuff. We're interpreting that data and coming up with creative and rigorous new strategies, and that puts us right in the middle of that big shift."
Rapp and Best Buy, a client for four years, have been working on a web-based tool that gives local Best Buy retailers access to preapproved marketing tools and collateral that are used for planning and executing local marketing initiatives.
"This tool," Mark Juba, director of CRM solutions at Best Buy, said, "works to empower those who know their communities and customers best, and doing that is a huge initiative within Best Buy."
Mr. Juba said Best Buy's certificate-redemption work for its Reward Zone loyalty program is in a continual test mode, and that Rapp has managed to develop new ways to engage and understand "who our best customers are" and what the right combination of communications channels is to maximize redemption rates.
He said Best Buy in 2008 saw an increase in basis redemption rates of 250, which equates to a double-digit increase in incremental revenue.
The client/agency relationship between the two has turned into more of a partnership, said Mr. Juba. "There's obviously a business relationship there, but they don't always come in and sell stuff," he said. "They talk to us about the business and how to help the business, and a lot of times it ends up being beneficial to both. They are very forward-thinking and have helped make things way more cost effective for us."
On the digital front, Rapp recently helped the Travel Channel reach 26-to-34-year-olds with a Facebook app called Kidnap, which eventually made it into the social network's 20 most popular applications and is No. 1 among travel applications. The application has become the top driver of traffic to TravelChannel.com, beating out Google and Yahoo, and increased site visits 28%. Page views increased by 36% compared with the six weeks prior.
"It helped us reach new audiences," said Pete Dorogoff, head of digital marketing and Travel Channel Media. "And it allows users the opportunity to sample a scope of programming and content that Travel Channel offers."