In a major commitment to its fledgling Geomentum unit, Interpublic has restructured the management team of the hyper-local marketing and media agency, bringing in two high-profile digital mavens - Sean Finnegan and Tony Bombacino - as CEO and president-CMO, respectively.
Finnegan, who most recently was chief digital officer of Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group, left that agency suddenly in late October over purported fallout. He is highly regarded on Madison Avenue as one of the industry's true digital pioneers, and was part of the seminal team at Omnicom's Tribal DDB unit, where he worked with Matt Freeman, CEO of Interpublic's Mediabrands Ventures unit, to whom he now reports.
Bombacino joins Geomentum from Restaurant.com, where he was CMO, and a former client of Finnegan's. Prior to that, he had been a key digital media and marketing executive at Omnicom's Resolution Media unit, and United Airlines.
Finnegan and Bombacino effectively replace Dave Walker and Mike Hayes, the former CEO and director of strategy, respectively, at Geomentum, who spent the past two years developing the agency's unique approach to hyper-local media and marketing, building a team and a suite of analytics, insights, and systems that would help Interpublic and its clients leverage technology, modeling and communications planning in ways that had never been done before at the local level.
Interpublic executives declined to comment on the reasons for Walker's and Hayes' departure, but acknowledged that the appointment of Finnegan and Bombacino signaled that Geomentum would accelerate its role in digital media and marketing, with an emphasis on "performance" models. Geomentum, which was layered on top of Interpublic's $2 billion-plus in local media organizations, including such "old line" media as newspapers (NSA), yellow pages and directories (Wahlstrom), and out-of-home (OAG), already has been pushing to accelerate the transition of those media to digital, while at the same time figuring out new ways to exploit the hyper-local targeting ability of "pure play" digital media such as online, mobile, social media, and addressable digital TV systems.
While some of those newer exploits are still under wraps, Geomentum recently did a deal with online video ad server Mixpo to begin placing in-banner video ads on Web sites that are capable of "micro-targeting" users based on their local geography. Interpublic executives said that deal is indicative of the direction that Finnegan and Bombacino would be taking Geomentum, and that the unit would also be working closely with other Mediabrands digital divisions, especially search and social specialty agency Reprise Media and digital audience buying system Cadreon, to find more hyper-local ways of targeting media.
"We are doubling down on our investment [in Geomentum]," said Freeman calling the addition of the two Chicago-area executives as "capturing lightening in a bottle."
Freeman added that the restructuring signaled Interpublic's plan to make Geomentum more than just a "specialized agency" focusing on conventional local media, but to become the flagship unit within Interpublic, and the industry, that figures out ways of creating hyper-local strategies around all media and marketing channels.
In some of its most recent work for clients, Geomentum has moved well beyond using media as a means of executing local marketing strategies. Based on its analytics, modeling and insights systems, it has actually begun working directly with the real estate divisions of major retail-based marketers to determine where they should build new outlets, or which ones should be decommissioned.
Freeman said the real opportunity for Geomentum is to leverage media, marketing and other enterprise opportunities at the "trade radius level," and that the end goal would always be "optimizing sales transactions for stores."
By bringing in two of the industry's savviest digital executives, he said, the next phase would be on figuring out how to use "clicks" to drive people to "bricks."