Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners Spins Off Interactive Agency

At a time when the dreams of sky-high IPOs arising from interactive agency spin-offs are officially dead, New York-based Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners is taking that route all the same, combining its direct marketing and interactive groups into a stand-alone company called Dotglu.

Founding a separate company, says KB co-chairman Jon Bond, has allowed the operation to attract talent that wouldn’t be satisfied simply working in a department of an agency.

But keeping Dotglu integrated with the agency — it’s in the same building and will remain so — will allow it to work on integrated online and offline campaigns. At least that’s the idea. Attracting bricks-and-mortar businesses that will be reassured by its traditional agency ties is also part of the plan.

“It’s about delivering first-class service to clients sick of dealing with the 24-year-old with the earring,” said Bond.

So far Dotglu — which has been operating in “stealth” mode for around four months — has won accounts like Citibank, Wyndham Hotels, Credit Suisse First Boston, Liberty Mutual, and Olympus Cameras. Around half of those clients are executing cross-platform efforts in which Dotglu works with the traditional agency, according to Bond.

The company, majority-owned by KB but also staked by individual investors and clients, is headed up by Tina Cohoe, who hails from FCBi, the direct marketing unit of FCB Worldwide. She had been president of that operation since 1994.

All of the leadership of the new division — save Jon Bond and Richard Kirshenbaum, who will act as co-chairmen — have been brought in from elsewhere, in hopes that they will nurture an entrepreneurial culture at Dotglu. The rest of the 40 person staff is made up of existing employees of KB’s direct marketing and interactive groups.

Dotglu will focus on customer relationship management, and will offer services such as: database marketing; media planning, buying and optimization; online branding; business consulting; and Web design.

Although Dotglu will be a spin-off of the agency, KB has no plans for hyper-growth or an IPO. It’s a good thing, given the current climate, in which Internet advertising concerns have been left out in the cold. Start-ups have had artificial pressure to grow, said Bond, and the rapid pace of change — both in hiring, and now downsizing — has caused instability. That’s a trap Dotglu is aiming to avoid.

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