Optimedia grows beyond Simon: Media buying company finds local audience for proprietary measurement tools

Optimedia came to Indianapolis 10 years ago primarily to handle media buying and placement for Simon Property Group Inc., which is a client of its sister company, ad agency Publicis.

Simon is still Optimedia’s largest client, but the shopping mall developer that once represented all the firm’s business now accounts for less than half.

The firm’s shifting client mix wasn’t forced by a drop in business from Simon. In fact, just the opposite is true, said Jay Schemanske, who heads up the local Optimedia office. Business from Simon has grown, Schemanske said, but the agency’s other business has grown even faster.

Optimedia has become a local mediabuying heavyweight, signing up a diverse list of clients, including Butler University, St. Vincent Health, the Indiana Pacers, the Indiana Convention & Visitors Association, the Hoosier Lottery and a coalition of Dairy Queen franchisees across the Midwest.

Though Schemanske wouldn’t divulge the firm’s revenue, he said Optimedia has grown 150 percent in the last four years, and gone from seven to 19 employees.

That’s solid growth considering advertising spending has increased only 3.5 percent to 4 percent in each of the last four years, according to several industry sources. And with a recession looming, 2008 doesn’t look any better. But Schemanske expects Optimedia to continue to buck that trend.

The firm just expanded from one floor it shares with Publicis in the building at 200 S. Meridian St. downtown to space of its own on a separate floor.

Schemanske credits the growth to an arsenal of tools Optimedia has developed to better quantify which forms of advertising are reaching which demographic groups.

Among the tools is a system Optimedia uses to measure and evaluate the total scale and impact of television shows across multiple media platforms. The system, referred to as Content Power Ratings, measures prime time and cable programs’ audience size and engagement levels across TV, Web and mobile media, Schemanske said.

In addition to audience rating metrics, the system measures interest generated through publicity, word-of-mouth buzz and video streaming on user-generated video sites.

One of the factors pushing the growth of firms like Optimedia is the growing complexity of the media landscape, said Ball State University advertising professor Bob Gustafson.

“Less than 10 years ago, there were the basic elements of print, billboard, TV and radio,” Gustafson said. “Now there are many more options from Web, to direct email and mobile communication devices. Many companies find they need help determining which way to go with their marketing message. Even if a company has its own creative department, it may still need help from a firm like Optimedia.”

That was the case for Butler University, which hired Optimedia in the spring of 2007 to help market its MBA program.

“Communication methods had changed so much, we needed a professional to help us navigate the waters,” said Stephanie Judge, marketing director for Butler’s College of Business Administration.

Less than a year after hiring Optimedia, Judge said, Butler saw applications to its MBA program increase 60 percent and enrollment increase 50 percent. Optimedia enacted a plan that used radio, print and online, but the plan was lighter on print and heavier online, where the 24-34 age group Butler targeted could be found. Optimedia, Judge said, insisted on using Web outlets where Butler could target ZIP code areas and specific age demographics. The more targeted approach saved Butler money, she said.

“Within a year, we completely repositioned ourselves within the marketplace,” Judge said.

The best part of Optimedia’s work was that nothing was anecdotal, Judge said.

“Everything they came to us with was steeped in data and research,” she said.

Optimedia and Publicis are owned by Paris-based Publicis Groupe SA. Optimedia has U.S. offices in Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Indianapolis.

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