Wait, There's More: Stunning Growth At Horizon Direct

Horizon Media, the largest independent media agency, won some high-profile general market accounts in 2013, including Burger King, Sleepy's and Vonage. But its fastest-growing division is its direct-marketing operation, which has doubled in size in terms of both staff and billings over the past two years. Estimated annual DM billings are now $550 million. By comparison, the agency’s estimated total billings are now $4.2 billion.

While that growth is dramatic, it probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise; marketers are more intently scrutinizing results for every dollar they spend. That has placed more of a focus on so-called performance marketing. Direct marketing, which has been around for decades, has always had performance at its core. Looking ahead, Horizon believes it can sustain DM billings growth of between 10% and 20% annually.



Gene Turner, managing partner and senior vice president at Horizon Media, has spent the last eight years building the agency’s DM practice, Horizon Direct. At first, the practice was dominated by direct-response TV. Now, says Turner, most DM clients take a multichannel approach. “The channel mix is becoming more diversified,” he said.

Often, the different channels work in a synergistic way. Turner cited a retailer that used social-media channels to boost its likeability score before going to market with a direct-response TV campaign. And a growing number of clients count the number of times its mobile apps are downloaded to measure campaign effectiveness.

In fact, much of the growth in Horizon’s DM operation, Turner says, is attributable to the growing array of channels that marketers can turn to in both the analog and digital sectors. “It’s the mix of channels that is working to drive results,” he said. “You can’t just operate in the linear world and expect to deliver” optimally.

Horizon Direct now has about 40 clients and about 85 DM specialists. Wins over the past year included Supercell, the Finnish mobile game maker, which developed “Clash of the Clans,” that is now controlled by Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank. The shop also picked up Vonage’s DM business, in addition to its general market assignment, and RushCard, among others.

“We’ve redefined how we think about it,” Turner said, referring to the way the agency looks at direct marketing strategically for clients. Among direct clients, some are pure direct response-oriented, others are more brand-focused and some are in between. The agency has developed techniques that enable it to develop a customized approach for marketers “across that continuum,” Turner said.

Clients can need help defining where they fit on that continuum, said Stan Fields, Horizon Media executive vice president and managing partner, who oversees a number of brand and direct businesses at the agency, as well as the Columbus international network.

“Sometimes a client will say ‘all we care about is direct sales now,’” said Fields. “But they don’t, because you have to build desire before discount, so they need to do brand work, too. We’re doing them a disservice if we don’t help them on that.” 

1 comment about "Wait, There's More: Stunning Growth At Horizon Direct".
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  1. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, January 22, 2014 at 9:25 a.m.

    Congrats Gene - well done!

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