TargetCom Marks 20-Year Milestone as Relationship Marketing Firm



    CHICAGO, Sept. 2 /CNW/ - Twenty years usually marks a coming of age, but
for advertising agencies it is a signpost of success and longevity for those
firms able to evolve and grow in a highly competitive industry. Integrated
marketing agency TargetCom has reached this 20-year milestone, providing
results-focused campaigns that have driven growth for more than 70 client
partners.
    "We've handled hundreds of direct marketing assignments for consumer and
business-to-business companies over the past 20 years, but we believe we've
made a real difference - and have continued to grow - because all of our work
is accountable, measurable and defensible," said Nora Ligurotis, TargetCom
president. "TargetCom has taken a hybrid approach that marries brand imagery
with techniques that deliver measurable results, all focused on creating a
relationship with the target."
    Ligurotis was the first employee hired by TargetCom founder Jay Miller
when the firm was started in 1988 as a direct marketing agency based in
Chicago. They had worked together at another agency and shared a vision to
create a firm with the single-minded purpose of providing direct response
marketing.
    "The initial business plan was to stick to our direct marketing knitting,
and primarily serve the middle market, while the larger full-service agencies
tried to sell DM as an ancillary service to big accounts," Ligurotis said.
"But the business reality was that clients of all sizes appreciated our DM
focus, and we quickly shelved the plan when we landed some large national
accounts."
    One of those, the First National Bank of Chicago (now JPMorgan Chase),
became one of TargetCom's biggest and longest-tenured clients. TargetCom's
work on behalf of the First Chicago Visa Gold Card helped make it the Number
One gold card issuer in the U.S. "They really put us on the map, and when the
credit card business exploded our experience with them gave us the opportunity
to work with practically every credit card issuer in the country," Ligurotis
said. Another early client, the Chicago Tribune, is still a TargetCom client
today.
    TargetCom staff in the early days was "pretty lean and mean," with most
of the creative work being handled by freelance writers and art directors
while the Miller and Ligurotis team acquired new business. As the business
grew they began adding account services staff in 1990, then creative and
production professionals, many of whom had worked previously for TargetCom as
freelancers.
    "Our relatively small size has kept us more collaborative and collegial
than large agencies, and this environment has helped us attract and keep some
great people," Ligurotis said. Over the years it also has created some strong
working relationships, which have led to four staff marriages, all of whom are
still married today.
    Agency billings also grew steadily, from $7,000 the first year to a
projected $20 million in 2008. Growth spurts have been driven by several
"seminal moments," Ligurotis said. "Besides our work for First Card, our
winning the Harley-Davidson account was a major augmentation for our
capabilities. In helping Harley-Davidson market financial services, we were
able to marry our basic tenets of direct marketing with a powerful brand and
strategy."
    Another big moment in TargetCom's evolution was in shifting from a heavy
print emphasis into direct response television. Agency founder Miller said he
dedicated himself to getting a DRTV assignment from First Chicago, and with
persistence, TargetCom was entrusted with its first project. "It was really
important because it allowed us to evolve from a control-busting agency to one
with far more diverse capabilities," Miller said.
    Producing quality television commercials became an increasingly important
focus for TargetCom with the addition of Tim Claffey as chief creative officer
in 2002, who brought with him years of direct response broadcast experience at
several full-service agencies. Television spots with significant measurable
outcomes have been produced for dozens of clients, including Cancer Treatment
Centers of America, TrueCredit, Humana and ditech.
    Ligurotis credits TargetCom's success and longevity to its ability to
adapt as marketplace needs have shifted. "We've evolved from strictly a direct
mail and marketing agency to a channel-neutral integrated marketing firm with
a wider range of services across all media," Ligurotis said. "We've added
senior staff for strategic planning, market research and digital branding. But
we've never veered from our core competency of relationship marketing, and
getting measurable results for our clients."
    TargetCom's entrepreneurial culture and focus on achieving results is
what led MDC Partners, Inc., a leading provider of marketing communications
services, to acquire the firm in 2000. "MDC is a best-in-class portfolio of
entrepreneurial marketing companies, and their culture and hands-off
management style seemed a great fit for us," Ligurotis said. "We were
approached by eight different agencies, but no one else offered the philosophy
that MDC provided."
    Ligurotis was made president of TargetCom in April 2000 shortly before
Miller left and moved to San Francisco to work with another start-up agency.
"My baby has grown up and moved on," Miller said. "TargetCom is a pretty
special place. People there truly enjoy working together, and like being
together - no cliques or layers. That's very unusual in this business, and
something I'm very proud to have helped create."
    TargetCom recently celebrated is 20th anniversary with a party for
employees past and present on a boat docked on the Chicago River across from
the agency's original office on North Pier. More than 70 employees, including
Miller, came to share stories and TargetCom memories. "It was a lot like a
class reunion for us, with so many friends gathered from all over the
country," Ligurotis said. "Working at TargetCom has formed a special bond."

    TargetCom (www.targetcom.com) is an integrated marketing agency that
practices the art and science of generating, executing and measuring great
ideas for clients who are serious about growth. The agency, headquartered in
Chicago, is part of MDC Partners, Inc. (NASDAQ:   MDCA, TSX: MDZ.A). MDC
Partners (www.mdc-partners.com) is a leading provider of marketing
communications services based in New York and Toronto.





For further information:

For further information: Nora Ligurotis, TargetCom, (312) 822-1102;
Marge Ferroli, (708) 524-5264


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