GCI Beats Out Weber for $2M Dell Account
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GCI Beats Out Weber for $2M Dell Account

If GCI reaps no further benefit from the Read Poland acquisition, it is likely to be pleased with the outcome, since the acquisition was clearly instrumental in the agency’s winning bid for the coveted Dell Computer business.

Paul Holmes

AUSTIN, September 10—When GCI Group acquired Texas public affairs shop Read Poland in April of this year, some rivals questioned whether the acquisition added value. At a time when its competitors were buying fast-growing technology firms or high-margin financial communications specialists, what was the attraction of a midsize public affairs firm with a history of modest growth in a second tier market?
 
If GCI reaps no further benefit from the Read Poland acquisition, it is likely to be pleased with the outcome, since the acquisition was clearly instrumental in the agency’s winning bid for the coveted Dell Computer business. Not only did GCI have a substantial presence in Austin, Dell’s hometown, but in Read Poland president Jeff Hunt—who joined the firm just six weeks before its sale—it also had a seasoned PR counselor, with experience in international programming and the technology industry.
 
That was one factor that helped GCI beat out several major agencies for the Dell business, formerly with Fleishman-Hillard and believed to be worth around $2 million. GCI will be focused on product public relations, targeting both consumers and major business customers, according to Dell spokesman Mike Maher.
 
Among those competing for the business were technology specialists Neale-May & Partners and Walt & Company; Shepardson Stern & Kaminsky, which handles corporate communications for Dell and which partnered with tech specialist Waggener Edstrom, and PR21. The other finalist for the account was Interpublic’s Weber Shandwick Worldwide.
 
“We were in a unique position in that in our Austin office we have a guy who can provide the kind of leadership an account like this demands,” says GCI president Bob Feldman. “Jeff has managed big technology accounts, and he has managed accounts across borders. There is no one else like him in the Austin market.”
 
Hunt’s experience as head of Burson-Marsteller’s Latin American operations will be particularly useful, since the assignment involves work for Dell’s entire Americas region, which stretches from Canada in the north to Chile in the south, and includes markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela.
 
The account will be managed by Hunt and Diane Gleason, who leads the firm’s technology practice out of its Boulder office. In addition to Hunt, another recent Read-Poland hire—Cunningham and Alexander Ogilvy veteran Don Bartholemew, hired in April to launch a new technology practice—will play a major role in the account.
 
Hunt says GCI will set up two “hubs” in Latin America to handle PR in the region. The first will be GCI’s own Mexico City office, which will handle the northern markets; the second will be Brazilian agency Gaspar & Associates, which has worked for the computer manufacturer in the past. GCI will also work with newly signed affiliate Consultores del Plata in Argentina.
 
“We are very pleased to have GCI as our new partner for communications in the Americas,” said Barry French, director of communications for Dell’s Americas business unit.  “We were impressed with the firm’s creative thinking, its track record in serving technology clients and its flexible and cost-effective client service model.”
 
Feldman declined to comment on the size of the account, except to say it would be among the agency’s 10 largest.
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