Agency Profile: Catalano Lellos & Silverstein

It is the classic story in advertising. Four young friends spend several years at a big agency, learn the ropes, think they can do it better on their own, and leave to start their own shop. Time and time again, this has played - with many successes and many more just a distant memory. However, the four partners at SoHo, New York-based Catalano Lellos & Silverstein (CLS) are determined to make sure this story has a happy ending.

It was April 2000 when Sal Catalano, Jason Lellos, Jeff Silverstein, and Frank D'Angelo - all working together at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer, prior to its acquisition by Euro RSCG Circle - realized that there was an opportunity to better integrate online into the advertising mix. So with no accounts in hand (rare for a startup), the four left to pursue their dreams.

Three years later, the four partners of the independently owned agency are doing business just the way they like it - they're having fun, making a living, and preaching about the virtues of integration. From the agency's planning and buying mantra "Marketing Optimization through Media Integration" to the inter-departmental structure of CLS to the way they learn about a client's business, integration is truly a fundamental principal. "Although we are rooted in online advertising, all the partners come from traditional advertising backgrounds of print, broadcast, or direct mail, so integrating the media is seamless to us," said Sal Catalano, CLS partner and co-founder who oversees client relationships and new business. This has allowed CLS to easily work in concert with some of its clients' traditional media buying shops, such as with Porsche and Omnicom's PHD USA, to bring online to a prominent seat at the media table.

Before forming CLS, Catalano was the Interactive Group Director at MVBMS/EURO RSCG, where he worked on Universal Studios, MCI, and Intel. Earlier, he did stints at Wunderman Cato Johnson and Y&R on such direct marketing and traditional accounts as United States Postal Service and AT&T.

To CLS, integration also means a close-knit inter-departmental relationship. "Media, creative, strategic planning, and research are all on the same page here," said Jeff Silverstein, CLS partner and co-founder who oversees interactive media. "It is common for the senior art director to sit in on media presentations or to help us review website proposals. They can bring a different perspective that can then enhance the media buy." Porsche's NCAA sponsorship program to support the Porsche Cayenne was a good opportunity for creative and media to work together. "Instead of settling for a canned sponsorship," said Silverstein, "we pushed CBS.Sportsline to come up with ideas that delivered on our creative positioning, 'Expect the Unexpected.' After some back and forth with the site, a feature article, Unexpected Moments launched during the NCAA tournament. This ongoing special feature delivered unique content, all the while showcasing the car itself and delivering on the creative positioning."

Silverstein, like Catalano, was at MVBMS/EURO RSCG, where he held the title of interactive media director. His many responsibilities included Volvo, MCI, Philips, NASDAQ, and Intel. He also worked in media at TBS Media Management and Jordan McGrath Case and Partners.

CLS brought a new meaning to "being integrated" during an initial meeting with one of its oldest clients, Cee Bee's Citrus. "Jeff and I flew down to Florida," said Catalano, "to meet the owners of this family-owned orange business to understand their needs and how they make money. We actually spent two days picking oranges in the groves, in order to immerse ourselves in the experience and the product."

The ten-person agency has helped a number of clients grow their businesses and advertising expenditures. Media billings for full-year 2002 were listed at $8 million, and Silverstein projects around a 30 percent growth in billings for 2003.

An excellent illustration of how CLS integrated online advertising into a total marketing campaign, is the innovative media direction and creative execution they developed for Discovery Channel's Animal Planet Channel. Animal Planet wanted CLS to create a plan to use online advertising to enhance the overall media effort for the launch of a week-long Crocodile Hunter Live primetime TV special. The special aired June 9 to 14, 2003.

What made this more than a simple online buy to support TV viewership is that the client wanted, in Silverstein's words, "proof that banner impressions could lead to tune-in."

To accomplish this, they concentrated online media impressions during a three-day period preceding the program launch. They used a high percentage of intrusive rich media units (Point-Roll and Eyeblaster ads) that ran across several properties, including Yahoo! For the Yahoo! program, a third-party ad research company was used to help understand not only the ad campaign's impact on brand lift and message association, but most important, helped the agency and client understand how TV viewership patterns are directly impacted by online advertising.

The unique tracking aspect used to prove the quid pro quo of online advertising was the consumer-initiated, automated, pre-recorded telephone voice mail reminders. Consumers who interacted with the ad had an opportunity to ask for either an email or, by supplying their phone number, they could get a recorded "call" from Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter, reminding them to tune in 10 minutes prior to showtime. This effort alone resulted in thousands of calls before the airing.

A third-party commissioned study, using control and text groups which were exposed to the online campaign documented the effectiveness of the online component. Results showed double-digit percentage increases in ad awareness, brand favorability, and correct ad message recall, while actual, self-reported TV program viewership increased 40 percent for those exposed to the online campaign.

CLS is an interactive agency that provides planning, production and technology, creative, and media services including planning, analysis and tracking, ROI measurement, optimization, cross-media, and email. Clients include AOL/Time Warner, Cee Bee's Citrus, Discovery Channel's Animal Planet, Disney, Intel, K'NEX, and Porsche.

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