ABR 2011: Harte-Hanks

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Gary Skidmore
Gary Skidmore

: Larry Franklin, chairman, CEO and president; 
Gary Skidmore (pictured), EVP and president, direct marketing

: Public

: 38 globally; 24 in US

: Mason Zimbler, The
 Agency Inside Harte-Hanks, Trillium Software
, Aberdeen Research, Information Arts, Marketing Intelligence
US revenue
: $601 million

Harte-Hanks has turned its financial state around after a couple of tough years. It recently completed its third consecutive quarter of revenue growth. This growth is mostly driven by its marketing units, The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks and its internal direct marketing team. However, the San Antonio, Texas-based company's shopper publications, such as PennySaverUSA and Shoppers, fared less well

The shopper businesses are "a separate part of the company to serve small- and medium-sized businesses in California and Florida, and those continue to be distressed economically," notes Gary Skidmore, EVP and president for direct marketing.


Harte-Hanks, which once owned newspapers and TV stations as its primary business, offers clients a diverse range of services, including marketing and CRM services, social media, Web, email and mobile marketing services through The Agency Inside. Its other direct marketing teams focus on contact center solutions, database marketing and management, lead generation and mailing services. 

"We're much more digital than we were a few years ago. It's about 40% to 45% of our businesses, and that wasn't the case just a few years ago," says Skidmore.

The company's database unit and its The Agency Inside team work together on some larger accounts. The company also owns the Mason Zimbler digital agency and Trillium data quality software. "We're not a brand agency...but what we do is communications and its marketing," says Skidmore. "If you look at the big holding companies, they are moving in our direction."


Harte-Hanks' major clients include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cisco, Marshalls and Toyota. Sony Electronics named the agency AOR for CRM for North America last year, and Modell's Sporting Goods hired it for a multiyear contract to support customer interaction strategy. Vonage also named Harte-Hanks AOR for direct marketing last year. Although Skidmore would not disclose some of the company's clients, he notes that "broadly speaking, the financial market has recovered for us...We have some blue-chip brands in that space, which declined the most for us during the recession."


Harte-Hanks employs about 4,200 staffers in direct marketing, up 200 from 2009. The agency named Brian Dames, now group managing director for database and data services, its first CMO in 2010. It also hired Tony Paul as group managing director for mail and logistics earlier this year. Skidmore notes the competitive nature of hiring as business speeds up: "We're hiring 25 new people in the database businesses this year," he says. "You can find new people, but finding the ones you really want is much harder than it was 18 months ago."


Harte-Hanks' global revenues were flat at the end of 2010, remaining at $860 million However, US direct marketing revenues for the year were up about 2.6% year-over-year to $601 million, as the division outshined the company's shopper publications unit.

"Someone said to me that we're about three-quarters recovered from the depths of the recession, and that feels about right to me," says Skidmore. The company also settled a long-standing lawsuit with former employees for nearly $7 million in 2010.


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