February 14, 2023 | by Heather Petaccio
Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Birthday to SRDS! I am proud to share some history of SRDS, who turned 104 today.
104 years ago, then 29-year-old Walter Botthof (born November 16, 1888) decided, along with Alvin “Al” Beirnes who was his secretary, to form a company together.
Their idea was to publish a “comprehensive press rate sheet” that would be issued quarterly to all US advertisers and the brand name SRDQ, “Standard Rates and Data, Quarterly” was born.
Botthof proved to be an excellent salesman and, therefore, the two partners expanded the company throughout the U.S. market. The quarterly magazine soon became monthly, and the company name evolved to be the name it is today, SRDS which stands for Standard Rates and Data Services.
Subsequently, SRDS went through many different owners. In 2020, after 3 years of negotiations with its then owner, Kantar Media, Emmanuel Debuyck, CEO of Adwanted Group succeeded in buying the company.
Debuyck shares his journey of SRDS, which takes the company through highs of revenue to revenue decline in recent years. This decline was due to the ever-changing market and no major investment from its previous owners. Today, SRDS has turned the company around and is rising back, having broken the cycle of decline. It’s growing into emerging media markets with new products and services. The focus of the “old” SRDS was always traditional media. Now the focus is on bringing media planning data into new market segments. SRDS is expanding digital offerings, aggregating Podcast data, and working with influencer data to name a few. You may see a facelift of SRDS, as well. After all, it’s 104 years old! To round out the offering, we will be expanding the Adwanted Group products in SRDS.
A ‘Ship to Maneuver’
For Debuyck, he notes that the company has its own “soul.” At the height of its success, SRDS generated millions in sales and employed 140 people in its beautiful headquarters in suburban Chicago. It has been through three wars (WWI, WWII, Vietnam), several major economic crises, dozens of U.S. presidents, the erosion of the press, and the advent of the Internet. Debuyck refers to SRDS as a real ship to maneuver. The role of management is steering this ship towards growth and calming the seas.
Additionally, the company’s key resource is its teams. There is an absolute balance of experienced employees with in-depth knowledge of the products, customers and market. Also, the “new” employees who bring an outside perspective to help the company transform, grow, emerge and change.
Stepping Up to the Challenge
For Debuyck, taking over a 104 year-old company is a challenge, but one he is willing to step up to. His mantra is there is no question of failing! In his Manhattan office, he has the company’s first books, published in 1919, to remind him of the challenge which is to successfully grow the company, transforming it while continuing to develop its teams, which are spread out between New York and Chicago. He is proud to be the owner of SRDS and feels a strong duty to pass on to future generations a successful, whole company in the broadest sense of the word. In the reception area of the SRDS New York office, sits a book that a journalist wrote about SRDS from its beginnings to 1968.
The Future of SRDS
The expansion of SRDS continues. Throughout its history, SRDS has developed subsidiaries abroad: MJM in Mexico, BRAD in the UK and TarifMedia in France. Through fate and evolution, Adwanted Group reintegrated BRAD in 2021 (which was part of Mediatel Group, acquired in 2021) and TarifMedia (which was one of the assets of OffreMedia, also acquired in 2021) presenting an amazing opportunity to make the SRDS brand shine by naturally becoming global.
Debuyck, along with CEO of Adwanted US SRDS, Heather Petaccio, have a shared vision. They see a vast field of possibilities including the enhancement of the core of SRDS offerings, increasing new media, building new partnerships, increasing the digital focus, and consistently improving the quality of the SRDS data. Lastly, on the heel of those initiatives, is the launch of new SRDS products with the Adwanted Group software solutions and Adwanted Consulting Group services, which will help the company launch back to its former size and revenue potential. It’s exciting to see what the future holds as we continue to make history with SRDS.
Happiest of Birthdays SRDS, there are many more to come!