Media Mavens

Media Mavens: Jim Price, Empower

Young Gun's Focus on Digital Innovation Gives Family Business a Few Marks in the Win Column

By Published on .

Jim Price is a decided contradiction to that old adage that "the first generation creates and the second preserves."

Yes, Mr. Price is the son of Empower founder Mary Beth Price -- a former Advertising Age Media Maven -- and Empower's chairman and former CEO, Bill Price. But since the younger Mr. Price, 34, became president of the agency in 2009 and CEO late last year, he's hardly been standing pat.

Jim Price, Empower
Jim Price, Empower

Revenue for the 185-employee Cincinnati shop, one of the largest media independents in the U.S., is up 22 % in the past two years, said Mr. Price, driven heavily by a growing move into creative services to execute the plans Empower creates. Such things as digital design services and developing word-of -mouth marketing plans now make up nearly 40% of agency revenue for a shop that was 100% media planning and buying in 2005.

At the same time, Mr. Price is leading a new charge in the left-brained direction, in August acquiring Cincinnati-based Market Intelligence Group, a 15-employee marketing analytics firm focused on things such as database management, marketing dashboards, data mining, customer segmentation and retail- and shopper-marketing analytics. Not many media agencies can take retail site selection into account for a plan, for example. Now Empower can.

Among the surprising ways Empower has been stepping off the media reservation under Mr. Price was with an Addy-winning multicultural PR campaign for Bush Brothers aimed at establishing the brand with Hispanic moms, and a social-gaming promotion for Chiquita Brands' tie-in with the 20th Century Fox movie "Rio."

Getting the agency, originally called "Media That Works," ready for the digital age has been Mr. Price's job from day one. After working at ABC Radio and Beyond Interactive as an intern, he began focusing on Empower's digital capabilities in 2000 -- just in time for the dot-com bubble burst.

That didn't deter him, though he did eventually take a detour to work on the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection campaign. When he returned to Empower the following year, he again focused on innovation.

"My job," Mr. Price said, "is to create for the future, manage the present and selectively forget the past."

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