Some might say that with marketers slashing ad budgets and demanding more for less, it’s no time to grow an advertising company. Inter/Media president and COO Bob Yallen begs to differ. The twin trends reshaping the marketplace—increasing fragmentation and more frugal media buyers—have actually been a boon for Inter/Media, an agency and media company with expertise in direct response advertising.
“Media fragmentation is our best friend,” says Yallen. “More fragmentation means more opportunities and more emphasis on the importance of delivering efficiency.” Founded in 1974 by Yallen’s father, Sydney Yallen, as a media buying service, Inter/Media has always been about bringing cost efficiency and quantifiable performance to the ad game. Paid on commission, the company initially catered to companies that wanted to bypass the costly creative component in which full-service ad agencies specialized and simply buy advertising time or space.
In the ’90s, the $450 million Encino, Calif., agency moved into developing direct-response ads that steer viewers to immediate action by calling an 800 number or visiting a web site, which enables marketers to tabulate response rates. It has since expanded into multiple business units that offer clients everything from media planning and creative development to retail channel sales representation and pay-for-performance advertising. Each unit looks to deliver value, says Yallen, whose tenure with the company began when he graduated from Southwestern University’s law school in 1985.
An example is the company’s American Target Network, which aggregates local media to create a local, regional or national footprint, which he says enables marketers to reach millions of households at a cost per thousand 30 percent less than the national network equivalent. “That’s a big strategic advantage, because our clients are always looking for that edge from an efficiency standpoint,” adds Yallen, who also points to proprietary technologies, such as AccuTrak, as differentiation points for the company. By identifying which media venue prompted each customer response, AccuTrak analyzes the effectiveness of advertising dollars spent.
“Over the past decade we’ve been creating our own unique media assets,” explains Yallen, who says that’s why he’s not fazed by dire predictions about the declining media industry. “Agencies are always looking for an edge, because at the end of the day, it’s all about performance.”