New Firm Focus: RMS Interactive

Veteran mail consultant Richard Schlackman doesn’t want to be left on the digital sidelines

Richard Schlackman wants to do to cookie targeting what he did to direct mail. One of the pioneers of the campaign staple, the veteran consultant is now jumping into the digital world with a new venture.

The firm, called RMS Interactive (RMSi), has been a long time coming, says Schlackman. “The power of direct mail is its ability to target, and the fine tuning of targeting. I started looking for ways to do that online,” he says. 

The new firm won’t be a traditional digital consulting shop, says Schlackman, who has counted Hillary Clinton, Planned Parenthood and former Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) among his clients. “I don’t mind social media, but I’m more of an advertising guy so I was looking for a way to talk to swing voters and base voters in an advertising way,” he says. 

Cookie targeting works off a campaign’s contact list. A vendor matches the list with cookies from a number of databases, which are compiled by ad networks. Once a campaign’s voter file is cross-referenced with an ad network’s cookie database, the campaign can send display or video ads to the universe of voters it wants to reach.

A few firms have begun competing for campaigns’ cookie business. In an interview with C&E, Schlackman says his firm will be different than the competition.

C&E: Why did you decide to launch the new firm? Schlackman: At the beginning, I liked a lot of [what the other firms were doing], because it allowed us to do video. But the first couple of companies, which will remain nameless, didn’t have the reach or the scale that I thought they would. They were a lot of hype, but not ready for primetime. So I worked out something that’s ready for primetime. Now we can target both video and display in a meaningful way, almost like we do mail.

C&E: Are you staffing up? Shlackman: I’m beginning to hire people to help me. I’d like to hire two or three people, plus the buyers we’ve already hired. I’ve already gone out and talked to a whole bunch of consultants who have already started buying through me, even before I had the official company.

C&E: So this isn’t a traditional consulting shop? Shlackman: I’m going to be a vendor. Like you sell TV, I’m going to sell access to these cookies so they can deliver video online or display online in a better way than I think is out there right now. I’m not selling directly to the candidates; I’m selling to the consultants. They make the determination of how much they want to put on pre-roll video. They may ask me some strategic questions, but I’m not going to tell them you have to buy X or Y.

C&E: Will the new firm be partisan? Shlackman: I mostly work with Democrats, but I will do tons of issue advocacy, initiative and independent expenditure work.

C&E: What’s your space in the market? Shlackman: There’s really nobody in the space with as deep a set of voter data and commercial data attributes. There are a couple companies, but the difference [between us and them] is that most of them don’t go through the whole Internet. They don’t have access to the same amount of inventory as we do.