NEW YORK (March 20, 2014)—A case study that U.S. International Media put together for client Aruba Tourism is titled “Unlocking The Caribbean’s Best Kept Secret.” But the same might be said of the agency, which was founded in 2004 by Western International Media founder Dennis Holt. With approximately $800 million in billings, it may be the largest independent media agency you’ve never heard of.
That’s because up until quite recently, USIM has focused primarily on providing media services to creative agencies pitching full-service accounts, sometimes on a white-label basis, sometimes not. For example, it’s working with creative shop PI&C on the launch of a new premium vodka backed by actor Robert De Niro and others that will be officially launched in the U.S. at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.
Many of the creative shops that USIM works with -- some 65 to 70 in total -- are independents, such as ThomasArts and the Concept Farm, which just won an Effie for work on the Aruba tourism account. A few are holding company-owned, such as Omnicom’s 720, the agency dedicated to Chevrolet retail advertising at the local and regional levels. USIM handles media planning and buying duties for TV, radio and digital for that account.
But now, USIM’s focus is starting to shift as the agency becomes more aggressive at pitching its own accounts. While collaborating with creative agencies remains a big part of its business, in recent months, USIM has won a string of its own new media-only accounts, including WellPet the pet food company, e-cig marketer Rejuve and the Institute for Culinary Education.
“In the past, we’ve tended stay away from consultant-run pitches,” said Russell Zingale, president Eastern region at USIM. “That will change going forward.” With 21 North American offices and 215 employees and a full suite of media planning, buying and analytic tools, said Zingale, the media shop believes it can be competitive in just about any pitch.
“We’re not just about execution,” Zingale said, noting the firm’s work with consumer products giant SC Johnson. Although it’s not the media AOR for the client, it does work with SCJ on new product launches, helping the client develop strategy and target development, said Zingale. In fact, one product that USIM has been working on with SCJ for the past 18 months is due out soon, he said.
Billings at the New York office climbed more than 50% last year with contributions from clients such as The Empire State Building, Century 21 department stores, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System; and K12, the online learning system.
The agency is expanding its offering. Last fall, it formed a new unit called Patriot Media Group (PMG), which specializes in placing 10-second closed-captioned sponsorships.
In the second quarter of this year, the agency plans to launch an in-house programmatic TV buying operation, given rising interest in the approach by clients and prospects.
Zingale said the agency believes it can differentiate its programmatic offering with a service that is equally adept at buying nationally and locally, the latter a sector that other shops often don’t focus on, he said. “The local TV market potential is really endless,” Zingale said, given the added efficiency that programmatic brings to the buying equation.