Lot21 CEO to Leave President Role

San Francisco-based online design firm Lot21 Wednesday announced management changes aimed at enhancing its client services.

As a result, the firm’s current chief operating officer, Eric Wheeler, will take over the post of president from chief executive Kate Everett-Thorp.

Executives said the move was less a reaction to the volatile online advertising marketplace than “a reflection of the growth of Lot21,” Everett-Thorp said.

“We’re extending our senior management as we grow into new offices, for new services, new platforms,” she said. “We’re looking for a president to lead our multiple offices, services and relationships with our clients. We felt Eric was the right person to do that and has proven himself time and time again.”

Wheeler, one of the agency’s five founders, said he would be charged with driving company strategy, overseeing new business, and managing client relationships.

“My challenge is to develop Lot21 product offerings and service availability, on multiple platforms and multiple reasons in the U.S., as we evolve and continue to offer more and deeper impact to clients,” Wheeler said.

Everett-Thorp will retain her role as chief executive officer, in which she will continue to lead Lot21’s “vision … principles and philosophies as to the way Lot21 conducts business and serves its clients,” according to a statement issued by the company.

The top-level changes come at a crucial time for interative agencies, and for the online ad industry at large, as firms are attempting to work through a slowdown in client spending. Several I-shops, including Red Sky Interactive, Agency.com, and others, have been forced to reduce headcount to offset revenue shortfalls, as have ad networks Engage, 24/7 Media and DoubleClick.

But Lot21 executives said the current climate is also one of opportunity — Internet advertising companies are in prime position to leverage their talents in exploring emerging media.

“The challenge we have before us is that Internet marketing is not enough any more — it’s really digital marketing. The [emerging media] platforms at this point are enabled by Internet protocols, which we leverage,” Wheeler said.

“It’s … about reaching customers on any platform and we look at digitizing on many different platforms,” he said. There “is a need for a company not only to execute, but to lead our clients and marketers to achieving effective results on whatever platform.”

Lot21 maintained that the company has not been severely affected by the industry’s troubles, even though the agency laid off about 17 percent of its 150-person workforce in November.

“Like all our competitors in the industry, we saw an initial hit with the market [correction] in April,” Everett-Thorp said. “But we’re not a dot-com service company — we’ve had a balanced client roster with a number of brick and mortar companies … who aren’t looking for a validation just from NASDAQ.”

“There’s been a decrease in the market for new business, but a decrease in a market growing hundreds of percent a year is still growing leaps and bounds,” she added.

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