Digital Agency Acquires Shop with Traditional Roots

Stories about traditional ad agencies acquiring digital shops have become commonplace. With its decision to buy Spokane-based miller.whiterunkle, Ascentium is breaking that mold. That’s because Ascentium is a Bellevue, Wash.-based interactive marketing and technology company and miller.whiterunkle is a more traditional agency.

“It is somewhat unusual,” said Ascentium President Jim Beebe. “We’re pretty well aware that some of the large ad agency firms, such as WPP and Omnicom, have been moving aggressively into adding interactive companies and technology companies to their mix.”

But Ascentium differs from many digital agencies in that it has knowledge about and experience in the marketing aspects of the business, said Beebe. “Most people at technology companies are really unable to effectively understand the marketing world,” he said. “We are a bunch of smart tech people who understand marketing and we’re smart marketers who understand technology.”

He said he and his colleagues decided to buy miller.whiterunkle as part of a long-term plan to move Ascentium forward “to being one of the top agencies in North America. The deal is one of several “stepping stones” on that path, said Beebe. He noted miller.whiterunkle has solid relationships with Motorola, McDonald’s and AT&T.

“We like miller.whiterunkle because of their location in Spokane,” said Beebe. “They’ve been in business for a long time and have some great accounts. We want to obtain national brands and we believe we can then sell a breath of services to those companies, both interactive and traditional.”

Beebe said Ascentium has about 450 employees and is finishing 2007 with about $50 million in revenue. He said miller.whiterunkle has about 30 employees. The current plan calls for keeping intact the venerable miller.whiterunkle brand, said Beebe. The 27-year-old company’s president, Ed Miller, “will stay on as a consultant for about six months,” said Beebe.

If it closes before year’s end, the miller.whiterundle acquisition will be Ascentium’s third in 2007. In March, it acquired the Portland, Oregon-based Centerlogic, a 35-member IT consultancy, and in June it acquired Invoke Systems, a Baltimore-based software developer with about 45 employees. Ascentium has acquired about six other small companies since 2001, said Beebe.

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