Richards To Play More One-On-One

Russo Comes Aboard To Direct New Relationship Marketing Group
DALLAS–Looking to add depth and experience to its in-house direct marketing capabilities, The Richards Group here has hired industry veteran Bill Russo to head a new unit dedicated to the discipline.
Russo, formerly senior vice president of Brierley & Partners in Dallas, will direct Richards/Russo as principal, spearheading direct marketing and customer loyalty programs. Russo will utilize existing personnel and also plans to hire an undetermined number of new employees to shore up the unit.
At Brierley, Russo oversaw customer loyalty programs for Hertz, United Parcel Service, Neiman Marcus and Blockbuster Video. He ended an eight-year run at Brierley to accept the post at Richards, which posted 1997 billings of $365 million.
Near the end of his tenure at Brierley, Russo supervised the St. Louis test market launch of a Blockbuster customer loyalty program.
Russo said the decision to leave the $185 million Brierley was difficult but aided by his previous relationship with Richards. Prior to joining Brierley, he was vice president of marketing for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and hired The Richards Group after a review of four agencies. “If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew [agency owner] Stan Richards very well and had a two-year dose of working with his people, this could not have happened,” Russo said.
Richards said the decision to form the dedicated unit was spurred by growing demand from existing clients for relationship marketing programs. Though the agency already offers some direct marketing services, Richards said he concluded several months ago that “we needed to strengthen our capabilities in one-on-one marketing.”
Richards/Russo joins other Richards Group affiliates established to offer specialized services, including design firm RBMM and Click Here, an interactive marketing group.
Russo said partnering with Click Here would be a natural, given the potential of the Internet as a tool in developing ongoing customer relationships for clients.
Russo declined to discuss specific projects in the works, but The Home Depot and cellular service provider PrimeCo Personal Communications–two of the agency’s larger accounts–do not currently have customer loyalty programs in place.