Hill, Holliday to Buy SF Interactive

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In a move that will ramp up its national presence, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos has agreed to buy SF Interactive, a three-year-old interactive agency in San Francisco.


The acquisition, which closes in early April, will boost Hill, Holliday's presence in San Francisco, where it already has an office in GMO/Hill, Holliday. It will also gain a foothold in Washington, DC, through SF's office in the nation's capital.


Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.


"We chose SF because of their experience in emerging technologies, including wireless and interactive TV, and because of their understanding of performance-based marketing - direct marketing, database management and CRM," said Laurel Rossi, executive vice president of strategic integration at the Boston agency.


An agency that has worked for clients like Hewlett-Packard Co., Quaker Oats Co.'s Snapple, Nike and Macromedia's Shockwave, SF last year pulled in revenue of $12 million. Current clients include Sallie Mae, Jiffy Lube, Adaptec Hardware and VeriSign.


Services offered by SF include online advertising creative, e-mail marketing, Web site design, strategic consulting, media planning and buying and marketing application development.


Once the acquisition closes, SF's 85 employees are expected to move into GMO/Hill, Holliday's office. This will help transform Hill, Holliday in San Francisco from a traditional advertising agency into an integrated shop that also offers Internet marketing services.


Hill, Holliday will now have offices in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC. The agency's East Coast operations, in fact, get a major shot in the arm with SF's Washington office.


"We'll use that as a stepping stone to build full-service capabilities in Washington," Rossi said. "It's a great byproduct of the transaction."


Part of New York's Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., Hill, Holliday boasts clients like Dunkin' Donuts, FleetBoston Financial, Minolta, Fidelity Investments, Verizon Wireless, John Hancock Financial, Cisco Systems and Priceline.com. Billings last year was an estimated $1 billion.


The agency offers services like general advertising, relationship marketing, strategic consulting, media planning and buying, database management, interactive marketing, promotions and design.


Rossi said plans for this year call for building advertising capabilities in the Washington market and "much more aggression in our CRM consulting across the board."


Hill, Holliday is also on the prowl for agencies that are strategic fits - a key part of the shop's growth plans.


"I think that because we have had such an aggressive growth plan, it helps us to grow at a very fast pace," Rossi said. "Traditionally we've done that organically by getting new clients and growing our relationship with existing business.


"I think that doing an acquisition as long as it's the right strategic partner helps us to continue to grow at such a fast pace," she said.


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