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Christine Baker
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Post Number: 895
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Posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 01:11 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Equifax hires ad agency to raise visibility

http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2003/05/12/story7.html

Jim Lovel Staff writer

For the first time in its 104-year history, Equifax Inc. has hired an advertising agency to handle its marketing.

Equifax (NYSE: EFX) reached a "handshake" agreement with The Morrison Agency of Atlanta in late April to help the company advertise its services. The size of the account wasn't disclosed, but Bob Morrison, president and CEO of The Morrison Agency, described it as "one of our most important accounts."

Tom Chapman, chairman and CEO of Equifax, said the amount the company plans to spend on advertising this year hasn't been determined yet. However, the company usually spends between $2 million and $7 million on combined advertising and promotions annually, Chapman said. That number could increase during the next couple of years, he said.

"We are reprioritizing our advertising strategy," Chapman said. "We are working like gangbusters right now and you'll see our company become more visible."

Equifax has a communications and marketing department within the company that traditionally handles advertising. The company often has hired local advertising agencies to help with creative work but never retained an agency to lead its advertising, Chapman said.

The need to refine the company's advertising is the result of several recent acquisitions by Equifax that have expanded the company's services beyond the credit reporting and investigation services most commonly associated with the company, Chapman said. Last year, the company acquired the consumer credit files of CBC Cos. for $95 million in cash and Naviant Inc., an Internet-based direct marketer, for $135 million.

"We are not a black box like some people think," Chapman said. "We want to be more aggressive in promoting our full range of services."

Morrison said the top management of his agency, including himself, will work on the Equifax account. He has assigned about six of his staff of 30 to work daily on the account and he expects to hire additional support staff, he said.

"This is going to be a flagship account for us," Morrison said.

The agency already is developing the creative work for the campaign, which is targeted at consumers, businesses and financial institutions, he said.

Equifax selected The Morrison Agency after interviewing several Atlanta ad agencies, Chapman said. He limited the search to local agencies because he plans to work closely with the agency.

"I will be actively and personally involved with the agency," he said. "I'm fortunate that Atlanta is blessed with some damn fine ad agencies."

Although details of the ad campaign still are being developed, Chapman said, he expects to launch an international campaign "in the next few months." Equifax operates in 13 countries. Current plans include print, Internet, direct mail and broadcast advertising, he said.

"We've got dollars set aside and two or three initiatives defined," Chapman said. "When we see an opportunity, we are going to spend."

Reach Lovel at jlovel@bizjournals.com.

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