Catherine Bension last year bought the controlling interest in Select Resources International, a West Hollywood, Calif.-based consultancy working to offer clients a rational selection process and agency participants a level playing field. As president and CEO, her goal is to grow SRI into the pre-eminent national operation for not just reviews, but for all client-agency relationships, dealing with issues such as compensation. In trying to take a cottage industry to a national level, she's competing with companies such as Boston-based Pile & Co. and Jones Lundin Beals, Chicago.
"The challenge in our space is to be ethical," says Ms. Bension, 50. An MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles, and mother of two boys, she has worked for entertainment companies and for a half-dozen advertising agencies, Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide and WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide among them.
Ms. Bension, known for her extensive wardrobe and as a woman who made all her clothes through college, also is working to groom agencies to make them more attractive to marketers. "Entrepreneurs have to be pro-active and we have to be creative," she says, adding SRI may soon be looking toward alliances with other companies to offer services beyond review searches, such as compensation and custom customer relationship management consulting.
Paul Sellers, director of marketing communications at Hyundai Motor America, which recently completed a review through SRI, praised Ms. Bension's grasp of the industry and cultures of various ad agencies. "She wasn't afraid to give us her opinions or her recommendations," he says.