Interactive Agency Vets Aim to Fill Consulting World Gap with Emerging Media Agency

Interactive agency vets John Durham and Cory Treffiletti hope to fill a gap in the consulting world with their new firm Catalyst. The founders believe their business strategy upstart will not only complement the work of existing agencies, but could help connect potential clients as partners.

The San Francisco-based company will assist emerging media firms, as well as more established outfits looking to employ emerging platforms, to develop strategies for marketing and monetizing new media opportunities.

“A lot of the [firms] I’ve known in the space act as matchmakers,” said Cory Treffiletti, Catalyst President, Managing Partner. “They didn’t really step in and drive strategy.”

Thus far, the young firm is working with seven clients, all startup companies; Catalyst is refining their marketing strategies, sales materials and pitches, and helping its also-young clients to develop revenue models. The company says it will serve clients in advertising, media, promotion, analytics and PR. Current clients include a social site for teen and tween girls called Jitter Fingers, publishing tool and social networking platform Zude, as well as online video ad firm BrightSpot Media.

Startups “are the ones that have the most immediate needs,” said Treffiletti, who expects to add more established clients in the future.

The company has been approached by incubators and venture capitalist firms working with startups that could be a fit for Catalyst. “Historically, most of the VC firms are good about recommending lawyers, banks, and accountants,” said Catalyst CEO, Managing Partner John Durham.

But they’re not so good at advising on marketing services, he continued. The new agency hopes to fill that niche. “There’s a hole you can drive a Mack truck through,” Durham said.

In addition to helping nascent firms come up with a feasible game plan, the company aims to spark relationships between new tech firms and potential media and advertiser partners. Catalyst also expects to assist clients in ensuring integration among multiple agencies, and work alongside agencies to help coordinate with emerging technology firms.

The agency, however, will not do creative work, said the founders. “We’re going to find key tactical partners,” said Durham. Rather than forming strategic relationships with firms, the new agency will choose partners on a case-by case basis. Otherwise, he continued, “You start losing that edge in terms of best-of-breed and what’s best for the client.”

The assumption is that the experience of the two founders will create ready-made clout for Catalyst. Treffiletti and Durham worked together at Carat where they developed mutual respect. After helping found one of the earliest digital agencies, i-traffic, Treffiletti has taken on gigs at other agencies, including senior positions at Carat Fusion and Carat Interactive.

Durham has also had his share of senior interactive jobs, working recently as president of sales and marketing at Jumpstart Automotive Media and SVP, business development for Carat Fusion. Durham also helped found Pericles Consulting, a firm that did interactive ad work for the Bush/Cheney ’04 presidential campaign.

The company has been in operation for around three months, and has six people on staff working in strategy and research roles, according to Treffiletti, who said the firm anticipates ramping up to 10 to 15 staffers by the end of the year. The principals wouldn’t name most of the staff, but did reveal Catalyst’s operations partner, Eric Yang, who also acts as CEO of media planning and buying agency Black Bag Advertising.

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