SMG Direct Snags $50 Mil.+ Business has awarded media planning duties on its estimated $50 million-plus account to SMG Direct, a joint venture between Bcom3’s Starcom Media Vest Group, Chicago, and independent direct response specialist Inter/Media Advertising in Encino, Calif.

The mortgage lender, a unit of General Motors’ GMAC Mortgage Corp., also considered hiring ID Media, New York, the direct response arm of Interpublic Group, said Philip Armstrong, client vp/marketing. Bcom3’s GM Planworks, Detroit, handles media planning for the automaker; IPG’s GM Mediaworks, Troy, Mich., does buying.

The finalists “are aligned with many of the GM agencies, and we wanted a strong connection,” said Armstrong, adding, “We envision the marketplace getting a lot tougher in the years ahead, and we need someone to grow with us as we improve our metrics and analytics.”

The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based client split from Carat in Los Angeles earlier this year, citing a conflict after the agency won the Hyundai/Kia media business. Buying shifted to GM Mediaworks, and a search was launched for the planning component.

SMG Direct was formed four years ago and handles a variety of accounts, including the U.S. Army. Nick Brien, president, U.S. for SMG’s New Ventures group, said Inter/Media will provide day-to-day management of the account. “They are very strong in overall research, systems and the broader infrastructure necessary to handle an account of this size,” he said.

With the win, Inter/Media billings rise to about $200 million; its other clients include Clorox, Auto Insurance Specialists, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific and Wellquest. will be the agency’s largest client.

“[The client] owns the category from a viewer standpoint,” said Robert Yallen, Inter/Media president. “They are young, aggressive and realize that they’ve been very successful, but they can be even more successful. … They’re going to get the attention that their scale deserves.”