Wunderman Gets Cooking With Designkitchen

Sam Landers of WundermanWPP's Wunderman has added another interactive agency with a Web 2.0 name to its roster. This time it's Designkitchen, a Chicago-based shop that specializes in Web design, content development and customer relationship management (CRM). Financial terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition comes amidst Wunderman's aggressive, year-plus long push toward becoming a more digital-savvy marketing provider, including last week's majority stake investment in French mobile marketing shop Kassius and the purchase of Chinese digital ad network Agenda in January.

Though the agency has worked with Wunderman in previous months on projects for Burger King and Butterball, Designkitchen's own clients include Motorola, Life Fitness and LodgeWorks. The 90-person shop will retain its name and senior leadership in the midst of the integration, much like past Wunderman acquisitions Blast Radius, ZAAZ and These Days.

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Designkitchen Founder and Creative Director Sam Landers chatted with Online Media Daily about the acquisition, as well as the kinds of things the industry could expect to come out of the kitchen in the coming months.

What do you say to industry types that say the ad business in Chicago is lumbering toward extinction?

Landers: I've heard the same thing, but I can tell you, in the interactive space in particular, we're seeing an uplift. With the consumer goods companies we're working with, a lot of the budget allocations we're getting are coming from the traditional side. I'm not sure if those companies are spending more money overall, but we're definitely benefiting from the demand in the region.

How did the Wunderman deal come about?

Landers: WPP had contacted us about some kind of deal last summer, and we had a principle agreement to move forward by the end of the year. Then Rick (Schreuder, president of Wunderman Chicago) invited us to pitch some accounts with them--like the Burger King interactive business, for example--and we came out ahead. Then they turned us on to Butterball, we jointly pitched the HON furniture business, and the experiences each time were incredibly seamless.

What do you gain by being part of Wunderman, as opposed to just being a partner?

Landers: Their expertise in the consumer segment, particularly with direct response and consumer insights is something that we couldn't organically grow on our own. The success we had in developing Burger King and other campaigns was a testament to our gut instinct about the benefits of this deal. My hope is that we'll be able to harness the resources that a large network like Wunderman allows, and yet help them better embrace tools like emerging and open source technology and peer-to-peer marketing.

Are there any verticals in particular that you serve well?

Landers: We're very good in the technology space, both for consumer and b-to-b clients. We've had Motorola for 12 years and we helped launch the Bluetooth brand. We also have a number of hospitality clients, including restaurant entities, Marriott hotels and Lodge Works. Becoming part of the Wunderman/WPP network grants us entry into the consumer goods and insights space.

What can the industry expect from Designkitchen in the next 12 months?

Landers: Many companies that have used advertising to successfully communicate their brand offline are still struggling to understand how to extend that success to the Web, and we're going to continue to aid them in making that transition. We'll continue to help companies leverage their content, services and information online, including in the community and peer-to-peer space. The interactive space hasn't defined itself yet--it's still the Wild West. There's a tremendous opportunity to impact how consumers and businesses interact with products and services on the Web.

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