Field Reports1 Feb, 2005 By: Thomas Haire Response
Joshua Stylman and Peter Hershberg, Reprise Media
Hershberg: We want to have complete automation of our proprietary system. It's a new development in the search market, and it is extremely scalable. We'd like to grow from an agency business and morph into a marketplace for keyword and search marketing. Search engines are consolidating quickly, but remain fractionalized. We're not going to place a campaign across all 550 engines operating today. We're hoping the marketplace allows advertisers to eventually more to a single search interface.
Amir Tukulj, Thane Direct Group
Amir Tukulj, president and CEO of Toronto-based Thane Direct Group, has been with the international company since its beginnings in 1997. The DR veteran, who also worked with international DR leader Interwood in the mid-1990s and owned his own DR company in the former Yugoslavia before that, recently announced Thane Direct's leadership in a partnership that purchased Australian DR leader Danoz Direct. Recently, Response caught up with Tukulj.
Response: How did you get the ball rolling at Thane Direct?
Amir Tukulj, Thane Direct: Initially, we started by taking successful U.S. shows from Thane (Intl.) and exported them across the globe. We were able to do that because of wholesale relationships we'd built around the world. Then, an important part of our growth strategy was to take on non-Thane product suppliers, which has allowed us to grow tremendously. We've represented a number of products from other companies over the years. Then, we decided to integrate vertically in some different international markets — our first was a joint venture in the Middle East in 1998. We started up Thane Direct Canada Inc. in 2000, and Patty Booth heads our operations there. These are all wholly owned subsidiaries. Shortly after that, we grew into Germany, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia with different partnerships. We also helped start PanLatino TV with Stan Bruckheim in 2000. Finally, in recent years, we've focused on developing our own products — things suitable for the international marketplace. We're having success right now in Europe with Rapid White, a non-peroxide based tooth whitener — peroxide-based products are illegal there.
Response: What recent achievements stand out in the markets Thane Direct is competing in?
Tukulj: In the U.K., we penetrated the retail market. Our live shopping efforts are experiencing a lot of success in the U.K. and Germany. The German business is very successful, and we recently launched a new 24-hour shopping channel there (Stop-and-Shop). We're seeing great third-party product success across most of our markets with the Magic Bullet. And of course, turning our relationship with Danoz in Australia from vendor to owner is a big accomplishment. Since Danoz was formed in 1992, the company has forged a reputation for high-quality products and good customer service.
Response: What does Thane Direct offer that other companies may not?
Tukulj: I don't really think there is another company that can be compared in terms of the strength of its own operations in these different markets, when combined with our own product development, the strength of wholesale relations with all distributors and penetration into non-television distribution channels like retail, mail and live shopping. There are many companies that are good at one of those four. But no other company, to my knowledge, combines even two of those four effectively. There are very few companies with the infrastructure to even attempt to do all four of those things successfully.
Response: What expertise does Thane Direct offer to companies looking to explore international markets?
Tukulj: If you're a U.S. supplier with a show you want to take overseas, what you want is the assurance that the partner you choose outside the United States will deliver sales and profits by selling as many units around the world as possible — in as many countries and channels of distribution as possible. We are uniquely positioned to do that. The strength of our wholesale relations means we can work with nearly any distributor in any country around the world. Our own subsidiaries control significant chunks of media time in their markets. We don't have to sell a product you give to us to another company — it's vertical integration with unique relationships.