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EPrize Buys Chicago Mobile Marketing Agency

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PLEASANT RIDGE (WWJ) — The Pleasant Ridge digital marketing agency ePrize has announced its second acquisition in six months, buying Cellit, a Chicago-based mobile marketing agency.

The move will add 16 employees to ePrize, which is scheduled to top 400 employees in 2012 and will be looking at a new headquarters during the year.

Cellit’s expertise in mobile marketing and customer relationship management products and services include short message services, mobile-optimized sites and mobile applications, which ePrize said is important in an era of growing marketing over mobile devices.

“Rapid consumer adoption of mobile technology is fundamentally changing how brands engage and inform the public about new products and services,” said Matt Wise, ePrize CEO. “MMA Global reported that 83 percent of mobile users take their phones with them everywhere, and CTIA reports that 74 million people in the U.S. have opted in to text messages from marketers. Brands with a mobile component in their campaign have a huge opportunity to capture consumers wherever they are and whenever they’re ready.”

In 2012, ePrize expects mobile revenue to triple as a result of the Cellit acquisition. Administering four-times more national promotions than any other company, ePrize forecasts that 80 percent of campaigns will incorporate a mobile component developed by ePrize by the end of 2012, growing from 20 percent in 2011.

Through the acquisition, Cellit now is a division of ePrize named “Cellit: ePrize Mobile Solutions.” David Wachs, founder and president of Cellit, has joined the ePrize executive team as senior vice president of Mobile, and general manager of Cellit. Cellit offices and the company’s 16 employees will remain in Chicago, with plans to combine office space with ePrize’s Chicago team in the near future.

“Major brands understand the value in engaging the consumer via their mobile device,” Wachs said. “They have moved beyond testing mobile programs in silos and are now implementing robust, multi-channel marketing solutions. Together ePrize and Cellit can bring holistic, multi-channel capabilities to market that drive customer engagement and loyalty, while creating a single customer profile for the brand. Cellit client case studies show that mobile offers drive 15-to-20 times the response rate of typical coupons and eight times the response rate of email.”

Cellit will enhance the current ePrize promotion, loyalty and re-contact offerings; enable ongoing customer relationship management via text-messaging platforms; and allow promotions and loyalty programs to integrate with in-store marketing efforts and point-of-sale systems.

This marks the second acquisition in six months for ePrize, after acquiring the customer relationship management division of Apollo Data Technologies in July 2011.

Portico Capital Securities served as the exclusive financial advisor to Cellit on the transaction.

In an interview with GLITR, Wise said ePrize realized that more and more marketing is being conducted through mobile devices, and faced a “build or buy” decision to add that expertise.

“We had been looking around for a mobile marketing company for a while,” he said. “The talks probably started 90 days ago.”

Wise called the adoption of marketing over mobile devices “a fundamental change in the way brands are interacting with consumers… they are rapidly adopting mobile technologies to interact with consumers. So we knew we had to have a robust offering in mobile marketing. These guys (Cellit) have been in business since 1995, and they’ve built a great business with a great technology.”

Wise said Cellit’s technology will add mobile components to the games and promotions ePrize builds for brands.

Overall, Wise said ePrize continues to grow, from 257 employees at the end of 2010 to 336 at the end of 2011 to a planned 420 at the end of 2012. About 65 of that planned 84-person addition to the staff will be hired at headquarters.

As a result, Wise, said, “we will probably outgrow this space in calendar year 2012, so we will be expanding. Where is an open question. We certainly will look (at) downtown (Detroit) — Dan Gilbert is one of our shareholders.”

Last year ePrize’s client base included more than half of the Fortune 100 companies and many world-class agencies. Since 1999, ePrize has grown into the largest online promotions platform, providing incentive-based promotional and loyalty programs in 44 countries for clients like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, The Gap, HSN, Miller/Coors, Yahoo, P&G and AT&T. EPrize also has offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.

More at www.eprize.com.

Cellit’s Studio campaign management platform empowers clients to create interactive mobile CRM programs including coupons, contests, games, surveys and alerts that inform, delight and motivate customers to increase knowledge, loyalty and spending. Cellit Studio seamlessly integrates with client enterprise and point-of-sale technology and provides an easy to implement and measurable way to maximize the potential of the mobile channel. Cellit also provides custom mobile sites and phone apps to some of the largest brands in the world. Headquartered in Chicago, Cellit was recently named to the 2010 Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in the country.

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