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Premium Play Ha-Lo Industries has purchased three premium products companies that will add annualized revenues of more than $52 million to its operation. The Niles, IL-based company bought two private Los Angeles-based firms, Premium Promotions and Marketing, Inc., and Idea Man, Inc., along with Smith Advertising Specialties, Inc., a Harrisburg, PA, promotional products company.

Ha-Lo’s sales for the nine months ended Sept. 30 were $396 million, 29 percent higher than the previous year. Its net income for the three quarters was $12.6 million, 52 percent above last year.

The company recently named Michael Linderman executive vp-promotional products, a new post that has him overseeing Ha-Lo’s various promotional products divisions.

Premier Promotions and Marketing, Inc. develops consumer-oriented promotions, primarily outside the U.S., for firms such as Gillette, Kodak, and Colgate-Palmolive. Idea Man, Inc.’s clients in California include Acura, Packard Bell, Sony, and Virgin Records.

Lou Weisbach, Ha-Lo president and ceo, says the buys continue the company’s “focus on growing our core business through consolidation of the promotional products industry.”

Ha-Lo is now the largest promotional products company in California, which is the largest promotional products market in the U.S., Weisbach says.

Ha-Lo bought Upshot last year in its quest to build integrated brand marketing services.

A Good Fit Moving to build its promotion agency business, Gage Marketing Group has signed a letter of intent to buy Mayer-Douglas, Inc., a Minneapolis shop that is agency of record for Conagra’s Healthy Choice and Banquet brands, and Hunt-Wesson’s Orville Redenbacher and Swiss Miss brands.

Mayer-Douglas will give Minneapolis-based Gage expertise in strategic promotional planning and creative concept development.

Last year, Gage sold 85 percent of its executional division – Gage Marketing Support Services – to AHL Services, Inc., Atlanta, intending to use the capital to shop for top promo companies.

“[Mayer-Douglas’s] strategic packaged goods strength is a wonderful fit with our broad-based promotion, direct response, and Internet business,” says Gage chairman and ceo E.C. “Skip” Gage.

Led by president Randy Mayer, the seven person shop had $40 million in capitalized billings last year. The group will move into Gage’s offices.

Since starting out seven years ago, Gage has grown mostly in “back-end” services. It’s largest account is Ford Motor, for which its handles fulfillment. Gage earned spot number 50 in promo’s 1998 agency ranking with $123.6 million in net revenue.

Ambush League Former Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. president Hershel Sarbin and his son, Richard Sarbin, have formed Sarbin Performance Audits, New York, to help corporations and retailers audit on-site compliance of promotions. SPA is a subsidiary of Market Development Co., founded by the younger Sarbin.

SPA will use a network of reps to guarantee on-the-scene compliance, the founders say.

“This is something the industry has needed for a long time. Millions of dollars are wasted by sponsors who assume that, at retail level, they will receive what is promised,” said Dennis Gorg, president of St. Louis-based Events Group, Inc. Noting that compliance rates can dip as low as 20 to 30 percent, Gorg said SPA will help deter ambush marketers.

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MDC’s Southward Invasion MDC Corp., the Toronto-based company that first crossed the border in May when it bought Internet marketer CyberSight, has snapped up Westport, CT, agency Source Marketing in a concerted push into the U.S. promotion business.

Source will keep a minority share in the agency and function with autonomy. The arrangement “will give us the platform to continue to integrate the agency vertically and marry the best promotional content with complete delivery and execution resources,” says Howard Steinberg, who remains to manage the No. 71 agency in the 1998 promo 100, weighing in with $4.2 million in net revenue. Source lists billings of about $7 million, with clients including Kodak, Remington, HBO, and Campbell Soup.

Source is MDC’s third U.S. acquisition. In August, it bought ad agency Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners.

MDC is a $500 million, publicly traded company with divisions in communications and marketing services and security and specialty printing.

Noting that promotion is a double-digit growth business, MDC president and ceo Miles Nadal said the Source buy is “an important step for us to swiftly obtain a significant presence in this market.”

Steinberg says Source itself is looking at acquiring companies in field marketing and merchandising to help broaden its services.

“With MDC we found the perfect balance between autonomy and support,” he says.

School Days, Revisited It’s deja vu at PS Promotions these days. New hires at the Chicago agency have reunited founder Paul Stanley with his old college roommates from Michigan State.

The agency is expanding its services beyond its core retail event marketing, adding more media and trade development to its account-specific marketing expertise.

Roomie No. 1 James Tisdel joined the Chicago office as director of PS-owned properties. His resume includes agency and corporate-side work on Coca-Cola, Seven UP, Sara Lee, and Unilever.

No. 2 George Lange came to PS in September from J. Walter Thompson, Chicago. He heads up the agency’s new Seattle office as senior vp. While at JWT, Lange worked with PS on programs for JWT clients including Heinz, Kellogg, and Mead Johnson.

The third new executive at PS never actually roomed with Stanley, poor guy. David Sametz joined PS early this fall as general manager of the Chicago office after stints at Kraft, Kellogg, and Salerno Foods.

Stanley hints the move had nothing to do with reviving Friday night frat parties at the agency. “They all know the trade,” he says. “They understand brand strategies, but also brokers and sales forces, and that’s the real key.”

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Einson Freeman’s Makeover Einson Freeman has moved to new headquarters, and is relaunching its brand with a new corporate identity. It’s still in Paramus, NJ, but at new offices with customized features such as open-office architecture, club rooms for client teams, and a “town center.” The design was based on staff input from all levels of the 90-year-old agency, says Jeff McElnea, ceo and president.

With the move, Einson unveils a new vision, a new small-“e” logo, and a positioning around the concept of brand promotion as opposed to sales promotion.

“The Einson ‘e’ stands for the new energy fueling our concept of brand promotion, which effectively replaces sales promotion as the definer of our discipline,” says McElnea.

Einson, with Vayness Co., Ridgefield, CT, has formed Einson Freeman Licensing, a joint venture executing brand extension licensing. The Venture will be managed by Vayness, staffed with Einson employees.

Say This Three Times Fast Two former employees of Sims Freeman O’Brien, the defunct Elmsford, NY, agency eventually acquired by Alcone Marketing, reunited with the merger of Colangelo Marketing Group and The Synergy Group.

Robert Colangelo is the president and ceo of Colangelo Synergy Marketing, which will have full-service offices in Norwalk, CT, and Chicago.

Jim Petzing, former president of Synergy, is the chief operating officer of the merged company that boasts $6.5 million in gross billings.

Chicago-based Synergy ranked 89th in The promo100, reporting net revenues of $564,000.

The two worked together at Sims Freeman before Petzing moved to Citicorp and then formed Synergy in 1994. Colangelo founded his company five years ago, focusing on design for marketing communications and promotions. Since Synergy’s expertise is in promotion planning, development, and administration (with no design business), the match seems a nice fit.

The 32-person agency plans to add15 more staffers in creative and account management.

Colangelo is agency of record for Kraft’s beverage division and Coolwhip, and does work for Pepperidge Farm. Synergy’s clients include Unilever Home and Personal Care products, Clorox, and Lea & Perrins.

Creative director Bob Terry will continue overseeing all visual communications for the combined company’s clients.

Think Ethnic Ethnic marketing is producing a lot of buzz these days, yet most of it emanates from the advertising world. Promotion agencies are starting to pay closer attention, however, with studies showing that multicultural spending is growing faster than spending from the Anglo community.

Davidson Marketing has formed DMI Urban, to be headed by Riley Davis, president and founder of Sadler-Davis Group, which has specialized in urban events in Chicago. DMI defines the urban market as the influential city-dwelling persons who are predominantly African-American, Hispanic, and Asian.

“Few marketers are combining their [advertising] efforts with targeted promotional programs,” says DMI president Jay Farrell.

In Dallas, Ryan Partnership has launched Panavista! to market to Hispanics, Africans, and Asians. It’s headed by vp Jim Lucero, and includes account director Paul Castillo and marketing coordinator Paulette Parano, marketing coordinator.

One of the more ambitious ethnic marketing efforts is being made by Chicago-based True North Communications, which has formed the New American Strategies Group for marketing to what it calls “The New America,” a customer base with a rapidly-growing ethnic segment.

The New York City-based NASG is meant to be a one-stop resource for promoters aiming at multicultural audiences. The group is comprised of the True North companies Siboney USA (Hispanic), Stedman Graham & Partners (African-American) market, and Skunkworks Marketing Lab, a consulting firm.

Company spokespersons claim New American Strategies will have a “unique organization structure,” that will have the member companies work individually or as a “seamless unit” to create and execute ethnic marketing programs.

The “anchor” of the NASG network is a research-based forecasting tool called Multicultural Marketing Opportunity. It predicts ethnic marketing ROI and develops intelligence that is ethnic- and media-neutral.

“For many companies, ethnic consumers are sleeping giants, especially in highly competitive categories, because these segments are growing in affluence as well as in sheer population numbers,” said NASG managing partner Al Schreiber.

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Cross-Sell Advantage Earl Palmer Brown Cos. continued its shopping spree last month when it bought BEN Marketing, the 9-year-old Stamford, CT, promo agency with $6.7 million in 1997 net revenues.

Bethesda, MD-based EPB has bought seven companies including BEN in the last 10 months, swelling billings to $600 million from $400 million. New holdings include the Henry J. Kaufman agency, DC’s oldest ad and PR firm; The Square, a London-based ad agency; The Silberman Group and Reimel Carter, both Philadelphia; and ad and promotions firm Warner Bicking Morris, New York. EPB also has its own offices in New York, Philadelphia, and Greenwich, CT, which will merge with BEN’s 50-person office in Stamford. An EPB spokesperson said that no client conflicts are anticipated due to the merger.

The sale gives BEN – No. 53 in the 1998 promo 100 ranking – more resources to compete for new business, says BEN Marketing co-founder and ceo Chuck Nardizzi.

“Having enough resources is crucial today. Ten years ago smaller companies could pick up big accounts. Today you are competing against firms with 100 or 200 people. This is an opportunity for us to join forces with a fully integrated marketing communications agency,” Nardizzi says. EPB is a good fit because “they have the same philosophy we do about building brands,” he adds. “We feel strongly that our expertise in marketing and promotions will mesh nicely with their existing talent and blue chip client roster, and its network of companies will allow us to expand on a national level.”

EPB was looking for a sales promotion agency to round out its holdings in advertising, PR, direct and database marketing, design, media planning, and interactive. Agency execs liked BEN’s “high caliber of talent and integrity,” says EPB partner of business affairs Peter Schelfhaudt.

“We think they are one of the premiere agencies” with a “fantastic” client list that includes Coca-Cola, Holiday Inn, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell Soup Co. and its Pepperidge Farm subsidiary, and International Paper.

“BEN understands brand marketing better than most sales promotion firms. That’s why they got Coke,” Schelfhaudt says.

EPB plans to cross-sell BEN’s services to its own clients, including Novartis and Amoco Oil. “We hope to put at least one representative from BEN in each of our offices,” Schelfhaudt explains.

BEN was founded as Block & Nardizzi in 1989. With the sale, founding partner Joe Block, who has been serving as a consultant to the shop, will leave. Nardizzi remains as ceo, Chris Milhous and Bruce Perlman as co-presidents in Atlanta, and Julie Miller as senior vp-president of BEN Direct.

Ringa a Ding Ding Aspen Marketing Group, Evergreen, CO, bought Phoneworks, St. Petersburg, FL, in July. It’s the sixth purchase in a year for Aspen as it taps $100 million in capital to buy marketing businesses from premiums suppliers and sampling to events and direct marketing. Aspen ranked 18th in the 1998 promo 100 with 1997 net revenues of $21.7 million; the agency projects it will hit $400 million in revenues by 2000.

Phoneworks’ interactive voice-response promos are new territory for Aspen. “Phoneworks has developed award-winning promotions for over 300 Fortune 500 companies,” says Aspen chairman-ceo Neil Cannon. Phoneworks’ “leading edge interactive technology adds a whole new competitive level to our range of products and services.”

Phoneworks’ awards include recognition for the 1997 Right Guard Halfway challenge for Gillette. Nascar fans vied for a Pontiac Grand Prix by calling a toll-free number and then, when Gillette and Phoneworks called back, identifying a winning driver’s name.

Joining Aspen gives Phoneworks the chance to develop “fresh turn-key solutions,” says Brad Wendkos, who continues as Phoneworks ceo. Clients include America n Express, General Motors, Nabisco, Gerber, and Coca-Cola.

Gotta Have Friends Two top Cyrk-Simon Worldwide execs, Joseph Sequenzia and Matthew Armstrong, rejoin old associates by taking new posts at The Marketing Agency of Marketing Corp. of America, part of a reorganization at the Westport, CT, shop.

Last month Sequenzia resigned the top creative job in Cyrk-Simon’s New York office to become senior vp-creative director in a new consumer promotion division at The Marketing Agency. Armstrong, who had been senior vp-account service and business development at Cyrk-Simon, joins The Marketing Agency as senior vp-director of business development.

The two worked together at Fusion 5 in Westport before moving to Cyrk-Simon last year. Both have known MCA execs Bob Petisi and Stephen O’Shea for years: Sequenzia worked with O’Shea at Ryan Partnership, and Petisi and Armstrong worked together at the Howard Marlboro Group, New York. Sequenzia and Armstrong came close to joining Petisi at Dryden-Petisi, the shop he co-founded and left last year to run MCA’s promotion business. Petisi tried to hire Armstrong for MCA last year, but “it was just as the Interpublic Group acquistion was taking place,” Armstrong says, so he declined. “After a year had gone by, we saw the acquisition made a lot of sense.”

Petisi approached Armstrong first, and “the conversation got around to hiring them as a team,” Petisi says.

MCA split The Marketing Agency into consumer promotion and business-to-business divisions following the June departure of executive creative director Rick Hill, who won’t be replaced.

O’Shea has been named exec vp-group account director of the consumer promotion division.

Jill Marino becomes senior vp-creative director of the business-to-business side, headed up by Lynne LeBarron.

Cyrk-Simon is “actively searching” for a new senior creative director to replace Sequenzia, who joined in April 97, says Cyrk-Simon chief marketing officer Laurel Rossi.

The agency retains “very deep talent in our creative staff,” she adds.

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