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VOL. 126 | NO. 252 | Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Social Media, Milestones Top News

By Sarah Baker

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Many of the headlines that came out of 2011 for local advertising and public relations firms mirrored the ever-changing scope of marketing and social media.

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were at the world’s fingertips to capture political unrest in Egypt, the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide practice their First Amendment rights – – and everything in between.

For many businesses, viewership of traditional sites has been rapidly declining over the last 18 to 24 months, and in some industries it’s down as much as 25 percent, said social media expert Mark Schaefer at The Daily News’ social media seminar in September.

“If you’ve been in a cave for the last few years, you might think, ‘Oh, my goodness, people are spending less time on the Internet,’” Schafer said. “And, of course, that’s not true. They’re spending more time on the Internet, they’re just spending it on places other than websites. They’re spending it on Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and these other social media platforms.”

One local firm that recognizes the radical impact the Internet has made on the advertising industry is archer-malmo, the venerable marketing and communications agency that in 2012 will celebrate 60 years in business.

In January, it acquired TMB Marketing Group LLC, a relatively new Memphis-based marketing agency specializing in the retail sector. In addition, archer-malmo launched a-m ventures, an investment company to invest capital into early-stage digital businesses.

“One hundred years from now, we’ll look back on the period from, say, ’95 to 2015 as probably unprecedented in a lot of ways historically because it’s cultural, it’s social, it’s everything,” chief creative officer Gary Backaus told The Daily News in March.

Another milestone for the advertising world occurred in September, when cs2 advertising acquired Thompson & Co. and its subsidiaries to become one of the largest full-service firms in the Mid-South, Sullivan Branding.

But that’s not to say firms consolidating overhead will be a trend in the coming years, said Russ Williams, CEO of archer-malmo.

“If you look at the size of firms today, both locally and nationally, the average size of firms in our business has gone down,” Williams said. “When I first got in this business about 10 years ago in Memphis, there were probably 10 firms with 35 or more people. And today, there’s probably four.”

One of those firms is Oden, a business-to-business marketing communications firm advising mid-size businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The firm has grown to about 40 employees since its founding 40 years ago.

Also celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2011 was Tactical Magic, a boutique brand-identity specialist made up of four full-time partners.

It’s the small, two- to five-person operations that focus on one particular discipline that Bob Vornbrock, executive vice president at Sullivan Branding and former longtime partner at Thompson & Co., sees as a trend moving forward.

Memphis companies such as Hemline Creative Marketing LLC, doug carpenter & associates LLC, Red Rover Co. LLC and Howell Marketing Strategies LLC are all evidence of the concept.

Meanwhile, 2011 was year that revolutionized the manner in which local editorial content is received. The E.W. Scripps Co. selected its largest-circulation newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, as a guinea pig market for a paid digital content plan.

It’s an initiative Cincinnati-based Scripps has been working toward for almost two years, based on the increasing demand throughout its markets to get news and information on multiple platforms, The Commercial Appeal publisher Joe Pepe told The Daily News in September.

“Those few people who valued our content but have not been paying for it raised some eyebrows,” he said. “They have lamented the fact that they now have to pay like everybody else – but that’s the new digital world we live in and must pursue just as Apple, The New York Times and other media have done.”

Yet another venture that transpired in 2011 was the purchase of 4Memphis magazine, formerly VIP Memphis Magazine. A group of six local owners who happen to be some of the city’s biggest advertisers in high-end publications took over 4Memphis in December.

4Memphis plans to not only document the charity events it features monthly with photographs, but also with “needs list” in efforts to raise awareness, said publisher Jim Walker, owner of Eden Spa & Laser and an officer with Merchants & Planters Bank.

“We’ll turn our magazine into a miniature fundraising event for every event we cover,” Walker said.

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