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Porter embraces science of marketing


Porter & Associates, an advertising and public relations company, has been sold to a group consisting of an employee, two small business owners and an outside investor in a move that promises to take the agency in a new direction.

The new owners include Ron Maahs and Todd Senne, owners of Direct Advantage Inc., a West Des Moines-based direct-marketing company, and Kris Moorman, who as Porter’s director of client fulfillment oversaw strategy, public relations and branding. An unidentified investor is also part of the new ownership team.

The sale was completed Jan. 30. The purchase price was not disclosed.  The move caps several months of speculation that majority owner Thomas Porter had been pursuing a sale amid a tightening market for traditional advertising and marketing services. The new owners believe there is greater opportunity in direct marketing and related activities, including strategic planning and helping clients make better use of the Internet to sell their products and establish brands.

“Porter has been known as a creative ad agency,” Moorman said. “The typical creative shop just doesn’t work anymore. Public relations is one of the areas we’ve been expanding. And with that comes the direct-marketing component.”

At the time of the sale, Porter had about 12 employees, half the number it had at its peak several years ago. Its clients include the World Pork Expo, the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary, the Iowa Environmental Education Project and the Iowa Credit Union League. Moorman said employment will grow.

The new owners plan to roll the businesses of Direct Advantage and Porter together. They also intend to change the company’s name in the coming months and move it from 4900 University Ave. in West Des Moines to a new location in the Aurora Business Park in Urbandale.

Maahs and Senne, whose current clients include Stein Seed Co., are known to bring a high level of analytic expertise to their direct-marketing business, Moorman said. Their company focuses on being able to measure the results of marketing and strategic initiatives.

“What they bring to the agency is a set of very comprehensive direct-marketing talents, from strategy to execution to analytics and results,” Moorman said. “They get it broken down scientifically.”

Moorman, a graduate of Simpson College, has developed expertise in helping companies use the Internet for traditional marketing and branding functions. As a consultant, she worked with Motorola Inc. to help the cell phone giant recover ground it has lost to Nokia Oyj and other rivals. Before coming to Porter, she worked in the marketing department of Perot Systems Corp. in Portland, Maine. According to Moorman, companies are increasingly willing to outsource their public relations and Internet-related strategic functions.

“We’re not going to change any of our services,” Moorman said. “We’re just going to expand them.”

Porter & Associates was founded by Thomas Porter more than 20 years ago. The firm’s two minority owners were Abe Goldstien and Jim Stafford. Goldstien will remain with the new company, while Stafford has decided to leave.     

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