Initiative Media Forms New Direct Response Unit

Initiative Media North America, looking to blend direct response media into its arsenal of services, is launching IM2, a new unit that claims $400 million in direct response TV bil ling—35 percent of the total spent on broadcast direct response annually.

Based in New York, IM2 (which stands for IMmediate IMpact) will combine the Interpublic media agency’s direct response division, IM Direct, and its DR subsidiary, Media Direct Partners. Both will continue to exist under the IM2 umbrella, however, to avoid client conflicts.

Media Direct Partners founder Desiree DuMont will serve as president and COO of IM2. The unit’s client roster includes Glaxo Wellcome (Media Direct is partnering with sister shop Initiative Media in the drug company’s newly launched $600 million media buying review), Dell Computers, the U.S. Navy, Bally’s Health Clubs and Roche.

The formation of IM2 represents a recognition of the increasing importance of direct response in the industry, according to Lou Schultz, chairman of Initiative Media Worldwide.

“It made no sense to have two separate divisions that do the same thing,” Schultz said.

“The difference between what most companies do with direct response and what Initiative’s doing has to do with the commitment of resources needed to really do the job,” added DuMont. “Most places have a small number of people devoted to DR, often on an ad hoc basis.”

Arguing that direct response is viewed primarily as “the ugly step child” of traditional advertising, Du Mont said the nature of the business has grown beyond “being synonymous with a cheap, crude spot that airs at 2 am.”

One rival media buyer cited the softening of the economy as a major factor in the industry’s renewed interest in direct response.

“People have to start realizing that getting brand awareness is easy, but it doesn’t necessarily lead you to the product,” the buyer said. “What’s the point of having an entertaining ad for your Web site unless you give people a practical reason to go there?”