CATHERINE BENSION, SRI

Advertising Review Consultant With a Vision

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17 of 20 > GO TO Next 2002 Woman to Watch

Advertising reviews often were a sullied process. Then review consultants came along, provoking mixed responses from both clients and agencies. But one woman is moving to change that.

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.

Cottage industry
As president-CEO, her goal is to grow SRI into the preeminent 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 firms such as Boston-based Pile & Co. and Jones Ludin 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 own clothes through college, also is working to groom agencies to make them more attractive to marketers.

Beyond review services
"Entrepreneurs have to be proactive, 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 her grasp of the industry and cultures of various ad agencies. "She wasn't afraid to give us her opinions or her recommendations," he says.

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