Weyforth-Haas, Bennett Kuhn Varner merge

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Weyforth-Haas Marketing and Bennett Kuhn Varner have merged to form a 200-person shop specializing in direct, interactive and integrated marketing.

The agencies will become part of a holding company whose name has yet to be decided. The merged agency will have three divisions: Weyforth-Haas, offering full-service integrated marketing out of Overland Park, KS; BKV, a full-service direct response unit in Atlanta; and BKV's Response Mine search engine marketing arm, also in Atlanta.

"For Weyforth-Haas Marketing, 90 percent of our client base is business to business, so partnering with BKV in this formal way helps us bring some of our expertise on the channel marketing side to business-to-consumer clients," said Barb Murphy, president of Weyforth-Haas.

"We've always described ourselves as a target marketing firm because our goal from an integrated marketing perspective has always leaned towards direct response and very measurable strategies and this just deepens that ability for us," she said.

Executives at both agencies have known each other for four years. For BKV, this merger was to complement its offerings.

"We do a lot of research and we expect Weyforth-Haas research capabilities to elevate ours considerably," said Maribett Varner, president of BKV.

Each agency division will retain its individual identity. Weyforth-Haas has clients such as Caterpillar, Freightliner and Embarq. BKV's roster includes Six Flags, Equifax and the American Red Cross.

Kelley Haas becomes chairman, Brent Kuhn president and Rick Skaggs chief operating officer of the combined agency. Ms. Murphy and Ms. Varner keep their posts at their respective divisions. Ken Robbins remains CEO of Response Mine.

While the agencies involved won't disclose their combined billings, this merger does make for an independent shop with considerable clout in their respective markets.

The merger is part of a growing trend in the agency world.

"A lot of direct response agencies are being assimilated into much larger general shops and I personally think it erodes the quality of their performance," Ms. Varner said. "This represents for us a merger with a company with a good direct presence."

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