Meridian Serves Tech Firms In Flux

Consultancy Seeks to Build Bridges Between Clients and Agencies
BOSTON–Meridian Technology Marketing may be the only communications consulting firm in the country looking to keep its tenure with clients as brief as possible.
“Six to nine months is our typical length of stay” for helping high-tech companies set up their marketing departments and fine-tune agency relationships, said Meridian vice president Gretchen Dock.
Formed five years ago by president Richard McGlinchey and sold late last year to Omnicom Group unit Brodeur Porter Novelli in Boston, 20-person Meridian blurs the line between ad agency, management consulting firm and in-house marketing department.
Working with startups and companies in various phases of transition, Meridian staff act as de facto marketing managers. They devise advertising strategies, work with existing agencies to create campaigns and oversee informal reviews to establish agency relationships (and not necessarily with shops owned by Omnicom).
In addition, Meridian staff evaluate and interview job candidates to help clients hire full-time marketing staffs and give the consulting firm a smooth exit.
This hybrid approach is apparently panning out. Meridian recently signed on seven new clients: AEC Data Systems, Altra Energy Technologies, Beechwood Data Systems, Interactive Solutions, Passkey Systems, Point Information Systems and Symix Systems. It claimed revenues last year of $3 million, a 25-30 percent improvement on the previous year, and the firm is on track to grow just as much in 1998, Dock said.
When Meridian is hired, existing agencies are often fearful, anticipating a review or, at the very least, believing Meridian is meddling in its relationship with the client. “A lot of agencies misunderstand our role,” Dock said. “Often, a client will say the agency is horrible. Ninety percent of the time, the problem is lack of direction from the client.”
Meridian attempts to build bridges between clients and agencies, facilitating clear direction, quick feedback and timely decision making on marketing programs.
For example, Billerica, Mass.-based Eastman Software (formerly Wang Software) used Meridian while being purchased by Eastman Kodak last year.
Overseeing all advertising functions while the buyout was completed, Meridian played a key role in helping the business imaging company make the transition from Wang agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston to Kodak roster shop Buck & Pulleyn in Rochester, N.Y., said Dan Foster, president of Buck & Pulleyn.
“What was astounding to me was the way [Meridian] came in from the outside and made [itself] part of the Eastman team,” he said.