International network opens doors for agencies

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Don Wilson, COO of Keiler & Co., a Farmington, Conn.-based advertising agency, never saw much value in belonging to an international advertising network.

"They were boondoggles," he said of the annual conventions many international networks have. "You'd have a couple of drinks, a few cocktails, you talk about business for awhile, and then everybody would go back home and forget about it for another year."

That was before Keiler joined the International Network of Business Advertising Agencies, a group of 60 member and affiliate agencies in about 50 countries. Now, Wilson has altered his attitude. This year, his agency has won two large b-to-b accounts, worth millions of dollars in billings, thanks to its INBA membership.

Keiler initially joined INBA about five years ago because agency client Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. was looking to market in Spain and other European countries. Since then, Wilson has found that while existing clients like the agency's affiliation with the INBA, in some cases it has become a necessity in winning prospective customers.

"In a lot of new business pitches we were finding ourselves going up against multinationals like J. Walter Thompson and McCann-Erickson," he said. For a midsize agency, Keiler had won its share of large accounts, including accounting firm Deloitte & Touche L.L.P. But the agency was finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the multinationals in providing marketing services outside of the U.S.

With its 50 member and affiliate agencies around the world, INBA offered Keiler the capability to provide global marketing reach, just as other b-to-b oriented networks, such as Confrad International and BBN, do for their member agencies.

Combining the pitch

The key to winning the two new accounts this year, Wilson said, was pitching the business jointly with other INBA agencies. In effect, it was INBA--not Keiler--pitching the business, he said.

The first piece of business Keiler won in this way was GeneralCologne Re, a reinsurance company for which Keiler pitched the account with fellow INBA member, Krall & Partner, a Dusseldorf, Germany-based advertising agency. Together, Keiler and Krall offered GeneralCologne the advantage of having local agencies at two important office sites: Keiler was near GeneralCologne's Stamford, Conn., headquarters and Krall was near the company's office in Cologne, Germany.

Pitching the account together was crucial to winning it, said Anne Krall, CEO of Krall. "I think it was absolutely central," she said, adding that an important advantage INBA offers over multinationals is that her agency is a truly German agency, not merely an outpost of a New York-based advertising conglomerate.

For Keiler, INBA was also a key in winning Concordville, Pa.-based Southco Inc., a manufacturer of latches, hinges and other fasteners. When Southco was reviewing its account, the company, which had a presence in Europe and Asia, made it clear it wanted to expand its presence and brand power overseas.

"One of the main criteria was that it be a global agency," said Paola Versano-Bendinelli, business communications manager for Southco. "We did look at J. Walter Thompson and Saatchi & Saatchi, but we wanted an agency that was midsize that would still give us what we needed. We were concerned we'd get lost at the larger agencies."

Wilson, who just spent 10 days in Asia recruiting local agencies for INBA, said he expects Keiler's affiliation with the INBA to increase in importance. "I just see it growing," he said.

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