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MRA Has a Southern Strategy

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The MRA Group continues to strengthen its presence in the Southeast.

Account planning specialist Scott Russell has moved from the company's headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y., to become president of the full-service agency's Atlanta unit. Russell succeeds Cheryl Lee, who now becomes vice chairman.

"What I want to do here is what we did up north," said Russell. "Attract clients that want us to do great work on their behalf and create a culture that attracts great talent."

Lee, who has worked in the Atlanta marketplace for more than 25 years, will turn her focus to new business development. She joined MRA when her family-run agency, Crumbley & Alba, merged with MRA in 1998.

Clearly, the agency is hoping to take advantage of Atlanta's so-called "Sun Belt dynamics": a strong client base, robust economy and a surfeit of young advertising talent.

With his brother Mark, Scott Russell helped build MRA Group from a four-person shop in 1987 to today's 140-employee operation. The agency has a reputation for solid advertising under creative directors Rich Wakefield in Atlanta and Tom Merrick in Syracuse.

"We feel very fortunate to have someone with Scott's talent and experience heading up our day-to-day operations," said Lee. "His knowledge of business-to-business and consumer marketing will be a tremendous asset to our clients. He is a perfect match for the needs of our rapidly expanding enterprise."

In Syracuse, Scott Russell served as executive vice president in charge of account planning.

"My personal strength is developing winning marketing communications strategies that I hope to break through with incredible creative work," said Russell. "That's the essence."

Among the marketing successes cited by Russell is Syracuse-based Welch Allyn, a manufacturer of medical diagnostics equipment that has experienced double-digit revenue growth.

Among the Atlanta-based accounts he will oversee are The Athlete's Foot; VerticalOne, a so-called "account aggregator" for financial institutions that provides information to its clients; carpet industry supplier Honeywell Nylon; and upscale Creme de la Creme childcare centers.

MRA also operates Comgroup, a niche agency that serves clients in the telecom and high-tech arenas.