Targetbase, Claydon Heeley Merge

LOS ANGELES Omnicom Group is merging direct marketing and data/analytics shop Targetbase and creative agency Claydon Heeley in a London expansion that is a harbinger of similar moves to come, said David Scholes, Targetbase CEO and group chairman of the new entity.

The new shop is called Targetbase Claydon Heeley, and its expansion is set to continue. Scholes said Targetbase would seek to partner with other creative shops — and not necessarily Omnicom siblings — in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, France and “probably China on a fast-track basis. It could happen through acquisition, mergers or through a startup. The key [factor] is marrying Targetbase to spectacular creative.”

Though the agency does have a creative component, which it has been working to improve over the past five years, its strength is still in its “repeatable and actionable insight, and applying that to affect consumer behavior,” Scholes said. “We didn’t come out of an ad agency, but we’ve created a business intelligence system leading to insight that fuels the marketing strategy and, ultimately, creative.”

Targetbase clients include American Honda Motors, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and GlaxoSmithKline. Claydon Heeley services ING, National Express and Royal Mail, among others.

Omnicom matched Targetbase to Claydon Heeley because of its nimble creative approach, Scholes said. “They’re known for their creative product and for being dynamic in the marketplace. They’ve morphed and changed to flexibly meet clients’ needs,” he said. “We felt that’s what we need: They’re flexible, not locked into their underwear.”

While declining to detail actual examples involving clients as a matter of confidentiality, Scholes said the merger was a result of “frustration” among some clients that lead creative agencies were ignoring insights provided to the client by Targetbase, or in other cases ineptly implementing that advice. For example, if an analytics-based segmentation study of the auto industry were to show that a specific target requires seven months of a specific sort of direct marketing prior to a lease expiring, “[the agency] pooh-poohs it, and sends one direct mail piece a few weeks before the lease is up.” Sometimes, he added, the agency cannot design a campaign to match Targetbase’s findings. 

Executive changes associated with the merger include Scholes leaving the position of Targetbase president in Dallas. Former evp Mark Wright in Dallas succeeds him. Chris Gordon, a former global chairman of Rapp Collins Worldwide, is joining Targetbase Claydon Heeley as CEO. Trisha Fairless, most recently with Rapp Collins in Moscow, is joining the London shop as development director. Patricia Lyle, svp of strategic business analysis, will split her time between London and Dallas, and Dallas senior analyst Matt Pharr has relocated to London. Caroline Deput, planning director, and Neil Johnson, data planning director, and Pete Harle, creative director, will have expanded duties.

Scholes said where it is “almost unheard of” for Omnicom to merge shops rather than acquire a “best-in-class” agency, the merger “creates something else, brings a completely different offering. It’s one plus one equals three.”