Extreme Makeover: Novus Edition

Two years in the planning, Omnicom Media Group is giving its Novus Media operation, once known primarily as a buyer of remnant newspaper space, a makeover.
 
And it’s adding some well-regarded veterans from the publishing and agency fields to get the job done.
 
Recently joining the roster: Donald Fries, the former publisher of Time magazine; and Fern Goldstein, the top strategist at Interpublic Group’s MRM.
 
Those two hires coincide with an agency restructuring dividing the shop into two core operating units: direct response and retail and agency services.
 
Goldstein is overseeing the DR unit as svp, while Fries, also an svp, is responsible for the retail and agency services unit.
 
Both of those executives report to David Murphy, who joined Novus two years ago with a remit to redefine the shop’s offering.
 
OMG North American CEO Page Thompson recruited Murphy, a former Tribune Co. executive, to the agency.
 

Omnicom acquired the shop more than a decade ago when print was generally more robust and dot-coms were spending like crazy. After the dot-com bust, Novus’ financial performance flattened and remained stagnant.
 
But with the redesign, Thompson said Novus is “becoming a local market retail and direct response company across all channels,” including print, mobile, inserts and digital. In addition, Thompson said the shop is backing up its buys with enhanced analytics, insights and strategic capabilities.
 
The agency has already begun to make progress. While he won’t talk actual dollar figures, Murphy said the shop boosted revenues last year by 30 percent.
 
The gains were fueled in part by a raft of new business wins in the retail, insurance and consumer electronics categories.
 
The shop won’t discuss its billings, but sources said they currently approach $500 million and with the infusion of talent and resources are expected to reach $1 billion in three to four years.
 
In addition to overseeing retail clients, Fries has been tasked with marketing the shop’s capabilities to other ad agencies that want to outsource print planning and buying duties.
 
Fries left Time in 2009 and had been consulting when Thompson, who has known him for more than 10 years, first suggested he talk to Murphy about joining the expanding Novus. “With [Fries’] knowledge of publishing and his network of contacts who better to help the cause,” Murphy said.