Hooking Into Online Media

Shop Conceived Inside Pro Media Takes Off as an Independent
By Judy Warner
BOSTON–HookMedia was conceived at Pro Media in Natick, Mass., and, since moving to Boston a few months ago, has lured business away from such big players as Carat Freeman and Mullen.
The interactive media buying and planning shop was founded by Donald Epperson, a one-time investment banker who two years ago, intent on developing a new model for online media buying and planning, was introduced to Nancy Ryan, founder and president of Pro Media.
Ryan agreed to allow Epperson to come into her shop and learn the business from the inside while developing an online capability her company could tap into. Ryan said she had little interest in developing the discipline herself but saw the potential in Epperson’s idea.
“I knew I just had to stand back and let him go,” she said. Hook-Media has ongoing relationships with many ProMedia clients, including Zoots and TJX Cos. It also works for Allaire Corp. and Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Epperson said. Boston-based Gearon Hoffman introduced HookMedia to its client, WebCT, Peabody, Mass., which provides online services for college students and educators.
“For an agency of our size, researching and measuring online media would take up a lot of money and staff,” said Heidi Ferris, vice president of media at Gearon Hoffman. “Hook brings expertise in planning and buying online,” leaving Gearon Hoffman free to concentrate on creative chores and traditional offline media buys, Ferris said.
“Don is taking the media business to a new level and really becomes business partners with his clients. … There’s still so much mystery about the Internet, and he brings it down to a level that anyone can understand and gives them information they can’t get anywhere else,” said Susan Ryan, executive vice president and director of client services at Pro Media. “HookMedia offers its employees a combination of base salary, bonus and options, but training is emphasized. Epperson wants HookMedia to be thought of as the McKinsay or Goldman Sachs of media.”
“What we are trying to do is make each one of our employees the best that they can be. … We want to give them a whole lot of learning,” Epperson said. One of HookMedia’s first employees was human resources director Jeffrey Dowler, a psychologist, recruited from Renaissance Worldwide.
–with David Gianatasi