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Sunday, 19 January 2014 20:06

Q&A: Jane Tamraz and Mike Gerfen, Biggs|Gilmore

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Jane Tamraz and Mike Gerfen Jane Tamraz and Mike Gerfen COURTESY PHOTOS

Last fall, Kalamazoo-based digital advertising agency Biggs|Gilmore sold to VML, a Kansas City agency with a global presence. Company principals say that aside from the signs on their Kalamazoo and Chicago offices, there won’t be any significant changes to the organization. CEO Jane Tamraz and President Mike Gerfen talked with MiBiz about the deal that’s being finalized early this year and the next direction for advertising.

How did the acquisition by VML come about?

Gerfen: We actually share mutual clients so we have known of VML for a long time and had a high respect of them as an agency. Over the last few years, we have been working on (projects for) mutual clients and gotten to know them and we really hit it off very well. They approached us earlier this year about the idea. It was a little before we were planning to do something. But it was a very good fit — the right kind of organization and the right people — and we went forward with it.

What made it such a good fit and what will the internal organization look like?

Tamraz: We are 140 (employees) and at the time they approached us, they were about 1,700 people. From our perspective, what we saw as a wonderful synergy was that they have a depth of resources that we don’t have. Increasingly, our clients are looking for agencies that have a global footprint. VML has more than 20 offices. … While we have great relationships with companies like Facebook and Google, we don’t have the size that we can command the level of attention that a company like VML can. So whether it is Microsoft or Google or Facebook, we have very great, direct relationships now through VML.

What digital advertising trends should businesses be paying attention to this year?

Gerfen: I think overall, there has been a shift from companies having destination websites to going to where the consumers are. Those are spaces like Twitter and Facebook or having ads or sponsorships on heavy traffic sites or high-engagement sites. So if you look at how our work has shifted over the last several years, we had done 80 percent website builds and 20 percent online media. Now those numbers are probably close to reversed. Also, the growth of mobile and mobile devices are becoming more important. This changes the skill sets that we have to have.

What about from a general advertising perspective?

Tamraz: We are seeing much more integration between online advertising and offline advertising. Now that we are in the era of multiple screens, people will be watching their television as the first screen and then they may have a second or third screen with them (such as a computer or tablet). There’s this blurring between digital and traditional advertising that has been talked about in our industry for years, but it is actually coming to some level of realization now.

Now that the firm is positioned to have a global reach, what makes Kalamazoo a good place to maintain a base of operations?

Tamraz: From the standpoint of two companies (Biggs|Gilmore and VML) that have grown up to be really well-respected digital agencies that live outside of New York and Los Angeles and London, there is something that was really appealing to them and us about being a solid Midwest company that does some amazing work. … Biggs|Gilmore (and its 140 employees) have a very solid reputation for digital advertising for brands that would be considered “low engagement” brands, mostly packaged goods brands like cereal or beer or paper products. We have a reputation for getting consumers to engage with brands that they may not normally otherwise. That was a big part of the appeal for VML.

Interview conducted and condensed by Nick Manes.

Read 3043 times Last modified on Thursday, 16 January 2014 14:25

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