Miller to Lead Focus, Rapp Collins Alliance

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The strategic alliance announced late last month between The Focus Agency, Dallas, and Rapp Collins-Dallas will be headed by Focus president/CEO Mark Miller, who also was named president of Rapp Collins-Dallas. Miller replaces Steve Judge, RCW-Dallas president, who left to pursue other interests.

As more businesses wrestle with the Internet, many are turning to their advertising agencies with requests to combine branding, direct response and Internet marketing campaigns. However, Miller said the key to helping such clients doesn't come from being overly preoccupied with e-commerce; it comes from an informed, pragmatic perspective about everything that's needed for the client to be competitive in its upcoming operating quarters.

"Not too many businesses are really concerned about how they're going to manage their operations in the year 2010 or even 2005," he said. "More are saying, 'Am I doing everything I can right now to make sure my company is not going to be left behind next year?' "

Perhaps it's the easy-going but shrewd, down-to-earth attitude of his Texas environment, but Miller is not one to deliver proclamations about the future of e-commerce. And he seems content to let others make predictions about new paradigms, disintermediation and the threat technology might portend for some product brands.

"Who knows what everything will look like in five years. I've heard people speculating that as much as 40 percent of goods and service will be sold via the Internet and e-commerce within three or four years, but we still have to define what e-commerce is," he said. "People like Bill Gates may think its WebTV while others will tell you it's all about owning a wireless Palm Pilot. If those guys haven't figured it out, I know I haven't either."

Millers said important changes are happening -- and happening rapidly. But he also said that delivering quality work for clients takes time and know-how. Declining customer service standards -- or even the perception that they are eroding -- can have detrimental effects when Internet-oriented direct marketing and overall branding come together.

"We need to help clients get smarter about how the consumer is changing -- how to put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly," he said. "Everyone today is time-constrained. Therefore, you can't afford to waste consumers' time. Every time you make something annoying, you have created a brand problem."

Whether long-term customer service challenges will spell persistent branding problems is unclear, but plenty of independent consultants insist that consumers' perceptions about service are becoming more intricately linked to loyalty issues than the general advertising world cares to acknowledge. One thing is for sure: Rapp Collins' direct response and database marketing expertise will no doubt combine handsomely with Focus' record on mass brand and customer acquisition advertising.

Focus has a staff of 55 and reported 1998 billings of $44.7 million.

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