Rapp Collins Sets Course for Cyberspace

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Rapp Collins Worldwide, New York, is expecting to cyber buy its way to become the largest direct marketing agency on the Web, but according to some in the industry, it may be a little late.

A new, branded Internet marketing arm is currently being assembled from soon-to-be-announced acquisitions and joint ventures. Citing client demand as one of the major factors, the company received the green light from parent company Omnicom Group Inc., New York, to move forward immediately, with the first step being the placement of Glenn Northrop as senior vice president of corporate interactive strategies.

"We've created [interactive programs] ad hoc and on a partnership basis for clients like Hyatt and we're starting to do work for Mercedes Benz," Northrop said. "Now, our clients are banging on the doors for us to develop a higher level of expertise. We can't afford to say that we're just a direct marketing agency, we need to offer capabilities for the digital age."

Many of the details are still under development, according to Northrop, and should be formalized within the month. "It will be a name and a brand, but still be part of Rapp Collins," he said. "We've got a number of things cooking. We'll be retrofitting and adding to the core of the company."

First on the list will be the acquisition of a Web production company. However, in the acquisition department, Rapp Collins might be a little late to the game, according to industry observer Steven Markowitz, chairman/CEO of MyPoints, an online database marketing and loyalty points provider in San Francisco. "It's difficult to acquire a top-notch interactive company because they're so darn expensive, although a big strategic alliance might make sense."

Northrop disagreed. "I don't believe it is too late to get in the game to acquire interactive companies, particularly if they are more strategic and customer-relationship marketing oriented. We are less concerned with traditional Web-design shops, as many of them are hitting the wall within their own client base," he said.

The company should move forward quickly as it is receiving top-down support from Rapp Collins Worldwide's new chairman/CEO Malcolm Speed, who joined the company in April. "We have a new CEO that knows if we stay where we're at, we're going to be dead," he said.

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