Ex-Rapp Collins NY Chief Opens Gardner Nelson Unit

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Robert Solomon, former CEO of Rapp Collins New York, opened a direct response division for Gardner Nelson & Partners.

Gardner Nelson, a 5-year-old independent agency, has 30 employees and billings of more than $135 million from clients like Bank One, Cablevision and The Clean Energy States Alliance. Solomon's arrival aims to raise the standard for direct marketing.

"If you look at anybody's personal list of great agencies," Solomon said, "you almost never are going to find a direct marketing agency among them. I'd like to change that."

Solomon has been named managing partner of Gardner Nelson Solomon, as the agency's direct division is known. His mandate is to build a direct division with effective thinking, concepts and craft.

"More practically," he said, "I want to help the current clients of the agency when they need assistance from me in a more integrated way."

Work for One Life Direct, a division of Bank One, had begun well before the creation of Gardner Nelson Solomon. Solomon consulted on direct response television work commissioned by One Life. Solomon also assisted in the pitch for the Cablevision business, again advising on DRTV.

An advertising veteran, Solomon was president of direct and interactive marketing at Ammirati Puris Lintas -- now Lowe Worldwide -- prior to his stint at Rapp Collins. He worked on accounts like AT&T Corp., American Express Co., Mercedes-Benz, Seagram, United Parcel Service, Johnson & Johnson and Compaq Computer before its merger with Hewlett-Packard Co.

Solomon met Steve Gardner and Tom Nelson, founders of Gardner Nelson & Partners, when they all worked at Ammirati Puris Lintas.

Solomon also is the author of two books on account management: "Brain Surgery for Suits" (Strategy Press, 2000) and "The Art of Client Service" (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2003).

For the moment, Solomon is the sole employee of his division. He will call on the parent agency's production and creative resources for work on clients.

"When we need to we'll go out for top-flight creative and account management," he said. "That's how Gardner Nelson & Partners started. As we grow, we'll turn to freelance first, and then we'll add staff. We haven't had that need so far, but I'm optimistic we'll have it. The thinking here is to have a very tightly integrated agency."

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