By TChoambarsiHnahirea(, thDaiaren@iqeulesotenx.cRome)minisce and Look Ahead
Mercury Media’s 20th anniversary doesn’t mean the company’s
long-time leaders are looking for an exit plan anytime soon.
Direct response media buying giant Mercury Media is celebrating its 20th
anniversary in 2008, and its long-time leaders, co-chairmen John Cabrinha
and Dan Danielson (who purchased Mercury from founders Marilyn Carr and
Richard DuBois in 1991), have overseen exponential growth. Just more than a year
ago, Mercury expanded its empire, forming Mercury Media Holdings (MMH) after
merging with Massachusetts-based ARM Direct. The company now boasts more
than $350 million in annual billings for both long- and short-form DRTV clients
— a giant leap from the $12 million in billings when the duo took over. Recently,
Response caught up with Cabrinha and Danielson to talk about the company’s
What’s the most memorable
moment of Mercury Media’s
first 20 years?
John Cabrinha: What am I going to bring
up that isn’t negative? I remember all
the bad news!
Dan Danielson: No kidding! Seriously,
though, last year we did $194 million in
long-form media, which was incredible.
I remember once, when we hit $350,000
a week for the first time many years ago,
John said to me, “I’ll shave the Mercury
logo into the side of my head if we ever
bill $500,000 in a week!”
Cabrinha: Now, we had one week in 2007
where we billed $5.4 million. That’s one
of the most gratifying moments from a
strict business standpoint. Of course,
aside from that, there’s been the personal aspect — watching our people grow,
personally and professionally. Growing
up in the agency, getting married, having babies. It’s gratifying because we’ve
always valued a family atmosphere.
Danielson: There’s no doubt that our
relationships with our employees and
clients have been the most rewarding
experiences. We’ve had somewhere in
the neighborhood of 600 employees over
the years. Many of them were in their
first jobs, and we got to know them, got
to have an impact on their careers, and
many have stayed with us.
Cabrinha: And a lot of those who left
want to come back!
What have been the biggest
surprises to you in the past two
Danielson: Our growth has been a surprise. Being in this business for 20 years
is also quite an accomplishment, I think.
Look at how many people and companies
have fallen by the wayside.
Cabrinha: When we first came to L.A.
with Mercury (from their roots in Northern
California), we told ourselves, “Once
we get to $50 million in billings and 25
employees, we’ll move back to the Bay
Area.” We hit that about 10-12 years
ago, and here we are — still in L.A. I
think the biggest surprise has to be our
ability to continue growing. Back in the
1990s, we thought $50 million a year
was as big as we could get.
What do you consider the most
successful campaign you’ve
worked on and why?
Cabrinha: It’s hard to quantify success. I
mean, go to the ERA (Electronic Retailing
Association) Awards once and you’ll see
just how subjective that is. I mean, to
some people, you might have a successful show — but, then again, how many
orders did the show achieve?
Danielson: The beautiful part is that
we’ve worked with clients who spent
$5,000 a week and were successful and
others where they spend $1.6 million
a week. We’ve had some clients for 20
years, and we always have brand new
ones. The array of companies and people
we’ve worked for keeps the business
interesting — Fortune 1000 companies,
widget guys, entrepreneurs. It’s most
rewarding to see those entrepreneurs
grow a business in direct response.
How does the formation of
Mercury Media Holdings affect
the company’s outlook for the
next 20 years?
Danielson: We considered the deal
for about two years. It’s a great deal
because we’ve gotten the perfect sister
company with ARM. We are long-form
specialists here, and they bill $150
million a year in short form. We can
now go into a pitch and talk about both
long- and short-form strength. Our goal
a decade ago was to be able to sit across
from a client and offer every possible
media service. Through this deal, we got
closer to that goal.
Cabrinha: Administratively, the deal
gives us greater depth and the ability to
focus on our core business. It allows us
to spend more time on strategy and look-