Wunderman Elevates Barry Kessel to RTCRM CEO

Wunderman confirmed senior executive Barry Kessel as CEO of RTC Relationship Marketing, a Washington, DC, sibling with clients like AARP Services Inc., Abbott Laboratories and Weight Watchers.

Mr. Kessel, who joined Wunderman in 2001 to lead the IBM account, was serving as senior strategist at RTCRM since moving from Wunderman in November. He succeeds Becky Chidester as RTCRM CEO after she moved to Wunderman as chief operating officer of the New York office.

The personnel change also includes a promotion for 16-year RTCRM executive Jeffrey Ross, who becomes agency president from executive vice president. Mr. Ross will handle day-to-day operations, while Mr. Kessel will expand the agency’s capabilities and seek new business.

Both Wunderman and RTCRM are part of London-based agency holding company WPP Group PLC’s Young & Rubicam Brands franchise.

“It’s a nice alternative to some of the larger New York relationship marketing agencies,” Mr. Kessel said of RTCRM. “We’re not as brawny as a Draft or OgilvyOne or Wunderman. Not everyone needs one agency so big.

“Wunderman’s core strength is multinational companies,” he said. “Wunderman is good at matching clients who are good at direct marketing. RTCRM is good with clients who are new to direct and relationship marketing.”

RTCRM’s specialty is pharmaceutical marketing, with clients like Schering-Plough, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis, in addition to a few other blue-chip brands. The agency also handles accounts like Road Runner High Speed Online, TESSCO Technologies Inc. and Berlex.

One of the other changes he plans for RTCRM is to expand beyond the pharmaceutical industry.

“We don’t need to be too reliant on one industry, so we’re expanding into financial services, pitching some fast moving consumer goods and I have a personal love and affinity for technology. I’m personally trying to expand into that business.”

The agency has about 130 people in its office, with plans to add 20 more by year’s end.

“We’re voraciously hiring people, particularly focusing on data, strategy and senior client service people,” Mr. Kessel said.

But he has his work cut out with the hiring decisions.

“It’s a challenge and an opportunity,” Mr. Kessel said. “Because our headquarters are in Washington, it’s not an agency town. So it’s finding the right talent in that market.

“The other challenge,” he said, “is to become nationally famous. We’re not well known enough. We’re too insulated and isolated in DC. We’re the largest agency in Washington other than the PR firms. But again, it’s not an agency town.”

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