MRM, iSky Form Alliance for Customer Care Programs

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Interpublic Group's McCann Relationship Marketing Worldwide and iSky Customer Relationship Associates have formed a strategic alliance to jointly develop customer care programs, an area getting increasing attention from advertising agencies.

Under the terms of the deal, iSky's Web-based real-time customer care services will be combined with MRM's one-to-one marketing services to ramp up customer retention efforts. The deal targets MRM clients, many of them Fortune 1000 companies, as well as potential prospects worldwide.

"iSky brings a very vital link in the strategy," said Pam Larrick, president and chief operating officer at MRM, New York. "They have a very clear understanding of how their interaction with the customer has to deliver on the brand. Most importantly, they are interactive at the touch point. And they're doing it online and offline, which is great for us."

The 16-year-old iSky, Columbia, MD, develops industry-specific acquisition, retention and cross-sell programs bolstered by interactive one-on-one communications and data collection and analysis. It executes these outbound and inbound programs through Internet text chats, e-mail, Web telephony, telephone and fax.

The deal between MRM and iSky strengthens existing ties. MRM owner Interpublic Group also is an investor in iSky.

"Strategically we have worked with iSky to incorporate what they do for a customer and how they do it into our total offerings to our clients," Larrick said. "Because, essentially, we help our clients maintain the entire customer relationship, so it's critical."

As part of the enhanced relationship, iSky has named Sheila O'Sullivan to vice president of agency relations, a new post. In that capacity, she will work with MRM's Strategic Services Group.

A unit of Interpublic ad agency McCann-Erickson WorldGroup, MRM has offices in 32 countries and last year recorded billings of $1 billion. Clients include General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson, MasterCard International, Microsoft Corp., Salomon Smith Barney, UPS, Nestle, Gateway and Sprint Corp.

Allying with iSky is intended to strengthen MRM's customer relationship marketing services, especially through the use of the Internet.

"Our goal is pretty straightforward," Larrick said. "We're looking to help our clients make CRM a powerful reality, strategically, creatively and operationally, which I think is very important."

Separately, MRM signed another deal with Prime Response Inc., Cambridge, MA, a consumer relationship marketing firm.

Prime Response's will now become MRM's primary marketing automation tool for delivering software-based personalized initiatives. It offers MRM's clients an application server-based tool for integrating traditional, online and wireless marketing channels.

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