Meredith Acquires Two Interactive Agencies

Meredith Corporation, publisher of women-focused print titles like Better Homes and Gardens, ReadyMade and Ladies’ Home Journal, has acquired two interactive marketing firms practicing very different disciplines. Digital marketing services firm Genex, based in Los Angeles, and New Media Strategies, an online “listening” and buzz marketing firm, will join Meredith’s integrated marketing division.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

“We need to be able to offer whatever services our clients want,” Wendy Riches, EVP of Meredith Integrated Marketing, told ClickZ News. “There are lots of cases where it makes more sense for a client to interact with the consumer through the Internet, rather than through print.”

Meredith, which also owns 14 TV stations, founded its marketing unit nearly thirty years ago to focus on custom publishing for its advertising clients. Since then, the division has ballooned into a full-fledged marketing services business, with a client roster that includes DaimlerChrysler, Carnival Cruise Lines, Century 21, DIRECTV and Hyundai.

Early last year, the company acquired another small digital marketing firm, O’Grady Meyers, which it had worked with previously on a Nestle campaign. Riches said she anticipated no client conflicts between any of the three agencies.

The acquisitions of Genex and New Media Strategies (NMS) call to mind Gannett’s 2005 buy-out of another digital marketing specialist, rich media firm PointRoll. Unlike that acquisition, Meredith’s moves suggest the company intends to offer a complete marketing offering, more akin to a media holding company like Publicis Groupe or Omnicom than an agency, albeit on a far smaller scale.

Genex, whose core business is in customer relationship management, has approximately 100 employees and counts Honda, Toyota and Citigroup among its clients.

NMS was among the first firms to offer brands the means to listen to the cacophony of voices online, including on discussion forums, blogs and social networking sites. Additionally, it offers active engagement services in the form of buzz and word-of-mouth campaigns. NMS billings are split about equally between the two approaches, according to CEO Pete Snyder, who said interest in his company from corporate suitors had increased of late.

“For the past eight years, just about every year we’ve had an offer in some way, shape or form,” he said. “A lot of people have been tapping us on the shoulder because this whole industry has heated up.”

Snyder argued his firm’s acquisition by Meredith marks a first for the online word-of-mouth space. “From our viewpoint, this is the first mainstream acquisition going whole hog into word-of-mouth,” he said. Another major merger in the word-of-mouth space, that of Intelliseek and BuzzMetrics and their joint consolidation under VNU, he characterized as mere consolidation among competitors.

Of the two companies, NMS would appear the bigger departure from Meredith’s historic focus on traditional media brokering and direct marketing. However Riches contends its deep database and research functions dovetail nicely with NMS’s offerings.

“We pride ourselves on… producing really great consumer insights,” she said. “We’ve got years and years of heritage and relationships to the end consumer. We have very deep research capabilities… We have a database of 85 million people who subscribe to our publication.”

Both companies were represented by AdMedia Partners in the transactions with Meredith.

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