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Branchout Hits the City Streets

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The Omnicom network has added new urban marketing unit Branchout.

The co-founders of the Dallas-based, independently operated division are the husband-and-wife marketing team of Rodney and Nicolette Branch.

Both partners come to their new venture from the client side. Rodney Branch is the former marketing manager of Frito-Lay and briefly served as director of programming, events and public relations for United Distillers & Vintners. Nicolette Branch previously headed marketing for the Southwest division of Pepsi-Cola.

"From our perspective, nobody was doing ethnic/urban marketing well," Rodney Branch said. "They were either using a cookie-cutter approach or assuming that[African Americans] were totally mainstreamed."

The Branches began working on their new business model more than a year ago. They were able to get it in front of Omnicom officials through contacts at Tracy-Locke Partnership, the promotions agency Rodney Branch had worked with while at Frito-Lay.

"We put together a very good business plan," Rodney Branch said. "We searched for a partner first rather than clients. We wanted to be full-service when we opened the doors."

Omnicom owns a minority interest in Branchout through Spike/DDB in New York, which has a 49 percent equity stake. The holding company now counts four multi-cultural agencies on its roster, including Spike/DDB, Footsteps and Arnell Group, all in New York.

Locally, Branchout is loosely aligned with DDB, drawing on the agency's creative talent to help execute projects. Though less than two months old, Branchout has also appeared on sister agency DDB's list of resourcesin new business pitches.

The new division is housed in the same downtown Dallas building as Omnicom's DDB and Tracy-Locke Partnership.

Both Branches see the focus of their new agency as being primarily strategic. "We don't want to be handed a creative brief and be told, 'Hey, go execute this,' " Nicolette Branch said.

Initial clients include the Soul Beach Music Festival in Florida and an undisclosed sports retailer.

Branchout launches officially on Sept. 12 with an urban marketing summit featuring Keith Clinkscales, chairman and chief executive officer of Vanguarde Media.