Second Time Around in Atlanta

Breathe Interactive is gambling it can generate new life amid the local ruins of e-commerce.

Positioning itself as a “next generation advertising agency,” the Atlanta shop’s principals are Mickey Cohen, Erin Greenwald, Scott Hagedorn and Heidi Klein, all veterans of last year’s dot-com meltdown.

“We’ve gone from 10 competitors to two,” said Hagedorn. “Second-generation startups don’t make the same mistakes as the first. We didn’t have to borrow, we’re not publicly funded and we’ve been profitable our first quarter.”

Breathe’s approach to its clients—BroadRiver Communications, GourmetStation.com and Millscale—is grounded in the interactive arena’s great, yet often underutilized capability: customer retention marketing.

“We’re an asset to any client who thinks of customer life cycle instead of just consumer acquisition,” said Hagedorn. “Acquisition and branding are very distinct from retention. To communicate over the long term, you need, among other things, to use the same voice.”

Database marketing, a stepchild in most tradtional advertising campaigns, becomes a powerful interactive tool, Hagedorn said.

“Let’s say we’re mining a home improvement outlet’s database,” he said. “We know, for example, from store sales, that a customer is adding a kitchen. We can layer on interactive marketing and personalize commercials. It’s cost-effective … a gold mine.”

Breathe’s other three principals most recently led the strategy, account management and media departments at 360i, an interactive shop in Atlanta.