Weber Responds To Digital Shift

Larry Weber thinks people may be surprised how quickly interactive and digital marketing is cutting into broadcast.

The Weber Shandwick founder and one-time Interpublic Group public relations czar this week launches what he describes as a “mini digital holding company” called W2 Group. W2 debuts with the purchase of Racepoint Group, a 30-person independent PR shop focused on emerging technology, healthcare and science companies.

W2 has also launched a separate entity, Digital Influence Group, that will specialize in the “unpaid” side of the Web, such as blogs, chat rooms and message boards. DIG’s six-person team will initially focus on creating research engines to measure the influence of these venues.

W2 will be housed in Racepoint’s Waltham, Mass., office. Weber, 49, is chairman. Racepoint president Marijean Lauzier, 45, will serve as CEO. Racepoint’s largest clients are Red Hat and Dendrite International.

“With the rapid increase of interactive and digital marketing … the shift is obviously well under way,” said Weber, who was CEO of IPG’s Advanced Marketing Services until the below-the-line unit was dissolved in May 2003. “People are going to be very surprised by how weak next year’s upfront is.”

“Larry is a guy who thinks big thoughts,” said Joe Grimaldi, CEO of IPG’s Mullen in Wenham, Mass. “I’m not surprised [he’s starting W2]. It’s got differentiation and a sense of uniqueness.”