Devon Direct Opens New Units

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After a year in which the win of several new key clients helped it realize a 20 percent increase in billings, Devon Direct has established two new business units and is looking to hire.

Devon Direct, Berwyn, PA, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, reported billings of $237.3 million for 1997, thanks in part to assignments from new clients such as Southern California Edison, Paper Direct, TV Guide, ImageNet, GuardiaNet and Nextel. The latter formally named the agency its direct marketing agency of record early this year.

The wins, coupled with new and continuing requests from existing clients have spurred the agency to take off in two new directions by formally creating business units to focus on technology and fulfillment.

"Substantial growth is always an objective, but sustaining it means that you've got to have a strategic focus on the future," said agency principal Ron Greene. "We committed considerable resources over the past year to the development of these new business units, looking for ways to leverage our expertise and success into business models that will serve clients' needs in the future."

The technology unit, whose formation was officially announced earlier this month, debuted with two new clients, ImageNet and GuardiaNet.

"We were always involved in the technology field, and a year or so ago we decided to focus systematically on the category," Greene said. "There is tremendous opportunity for us in the field of Internet-related business, computer software, online generation of customers and online retention."

As one of its first projects, the new unit is developing a business-to-business campaign that will involve Internet marketing, direct mail, print ads package design and the creation of collateral materials to promote the computer design, analysis and simulation software of ImageNet.

For GuardiaNet, which screens out objectionable content on the Internet based on user-selected criteria, the agency will target households with computers and school-age children, mostly through direct mail and print advertising campaigns.

The agency's new fulfillment unit already is working on an assignment assisting investment management firm T. Rowe Price, with which the agency had previously consulted on fulfillment issues.

The unit offers a variety of levels of service, ranging from a consulting role in which clients receive an analysis and recommendations for making back-end operations more efficient, to total management of a client's fulfillment program and providing periodic reports.

"Through our experience, we found that clients can benefit from turnkey management services," Greene said. "We can provide a range of services from collection of data, to distribution of literature and products and inventory management and control."

New units and new clients coupled with the departure of several top executives last year have involved the agency on a hiring frenzy.

"We are aggressively recruiting for all disciplines, looking to add 25 people in account services, creative, production, data management and fulfillment," Greene said.

As well as embarking on new directions, the agency is continuing to rely on the characteristics that have helped bring it to this point, including its experience in a range of industries, a staff of executives who often have backgrounds on the client side for additional perspective, and a strong emphasis on creative.

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