Building up buzz for latest gadgets


The tracking-device maker's audience reflects a departure from the typical targets of AH&M Marketing Communications Inc., which is having its 20th birthday this year as a global media relations firm.

Most of the North Street agency's clients are Fortune 500 companies that operate on the cusp of invention and technology — in plastics, chemicals, electronics, construction and health care. But such advancements often are most tantalizing within industry circles and in trade publications that track the latest buzz in carbon fiber, thermoplastics, flexible plastics and chemical advances, which eventually wind up in scores of consumer products, medical equipment, cars and electronics.

But keeping track of teen drivers? That's a new audience entirely, although the high-tech nature of the product is familiar turf for AH&M.

"We'll have a very focused media strategy," said Allison, 52. "National newspapers, television, business and consumer publications, radio, print advertising blitz, speaking engagements, town hall meetings, direct mail, in English and Spanish. The goal is to generate traffic for the company."

Allison, whose steady demeanor may seem at odds with his globe-trotting work in a high-paced, competitive technology market, began his public relations career as a speech writer for the former GE Plastics in the 1980s. He later teamed up with two partners to establish Allison, Hull & Malnati in 1988. His partners have moved on, and he is now company president.

The agency employs 13 people, six of whom work in Pittsfield, several of whom work remotely as writers.

Today, his most active client happens to be the successor to GE Plastics, Sabic Innovative Plastics, a division of one of the world's biggest petrochemical companies.

In his capacity as a media relations company frontman, Allison had not previously worked for GE Plastics — although he did represent GE's Silicone Products Division — but quickly teamed up with Sabic.

"They are definitely the biggest and most active client," said Allison, whose office dispatches press releases steadily on Sabic's new uses for high-performance plastics in automotive, medical and other industries.

Among his other clients are GLS Corp. (plastics); Spartech (plastics); Orfit, a Belgian medical supply company; and China Array Plastics in Pittsfield, which manufactures goods in China.

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"We've worked from one end of the plastics supply chain to the other," Allison said.

In the late 1980s, the global reach of business was just unfolding, and AH&M has consistently claimed uniqueness in its international reach.

About 70 percent of the agency's business is globally focused. About 30 percent of work has focused on the Americas, 45 percent on Asian markets, including India, and 25 percent on European audiences.

There's big growth right now in India, China and the Middle East, Allison said.

"India tends to be overshadowed by the China market, but India is really growing," he said.

Each day, he and his staff network with related agencies in the Netherlands, in Shanghai, China, in Beijing, in Tokyo and in Singapore to get the word out for various clients, he said.

Allison declined to name the maker of the tracking device as yet because the company is several weeks away from its official announcement.

Meanwhile, the electronic traffic device — an adaptation of a technology used in the rail industry — will be touted as a consumer-friendly product that works with the technology of a global positioning satellite (GPS), the typical cell phone and the family computer.

By logging on to a computer, a user can track the whereabouts, speed and direction of a vehicle. Parents can set up the system to provide them with e-mail or text message alerts about speeding or traveling outside permitted areas.

Allison said the research done ahead of time indicates that parents will be more lenient with their teen drivers if they can keep track of their whereabouts.

To reach Ellen G. Lahr:, (413) 496-6240.


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