Carat Interactive Buys Lot21, Vizium

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In another digital marketing consolidation, Carat Interactive has bought San Francisco interactive agency Lot21 and Framingham, MA-based e-mail marketing firm Vizium.

Heavily involved in media planning and buying, Carat Interactive now will offer clients additional services in emerging technology, e-mail marketing and e-CRM. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We still have a media angle for what we do," said Sarah Fay, president of Boston-based Carat Interactive. "It's not like all of our clients are going to drop their creative partners. But we can now fill in where clients need us to fill in."

Carat Interactive is part of the Aegis Group-owned Carat Group, the world's leading independent media buying and planning agency with more than $15 billion in global billings. Carat North America alone accounts for $3.6 billion in U.S. billings.

As part of the deal, the Lot21 part of the firm will go under the name Lot21 Studios for creative services. The Vizium name will be dropped. Combined, 100 employees will work at Carat Interactive -- 42 from Lot21, 13 from Vizium and the rest existing staff.

Fay retains her position as president of Carat Interactive. Kate Everett-Thorp, CEO of Lot21, becomes chairman of Carat Interactive, and her colleague, Eric Wheeler, becomes chief operating officer. Alan Osetek, president of Vizium, becomes senior vice president of eCRM at Carat Interactive.

The agency now will have offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

"Online is the one medium that's set to grow in the double digits this year," Fay said. "So what these companies offer is many things. Lot21 gives us girth and credibility on the West Coast, where we had some but not significant services in L.A. and San Francisco.

"Also," she said, "what they bring to the table is creative services. This gives us the opportunity to provide the complete interactive solution to the clients. It's not as easy to provide just one part of the solution to clients. Many clients are looking for a complete solution to meet their goals."

Besides serving existing clients, the acquisitions bring new ones. Lot21's roster has Seagate, Adobe, Bank of America and Palm. This adds to Carat Interactive's list that includes Adidas, Pfizer, Autodesk and AT&T Broadband.

Fay expects Carat Interactive to post billings of $100 million this year.

"Despite it being a down year for interactive, consumers are still coming in droves, and Carat recognizes that the consumers are coming and we as a media consultant need to be where the consumer is," she said.

But by strengthening its creative and interactive marketing offerings, Carat Interactive risks alienating agencies that push business its way. Fay has no such fears.

"Most of our business does not come from the agency side," she said. "It comes from the clients' side. But we work in partnership with other agencies when it serves the clients' best interests."

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