Ad Slowdown Hurts HookMedia

Boston Internet media planner HookMedia is closing its Atlanta office and laying off about 15 of its 100 employees, as the industry-wide slowdown drags on.

“Atlanta wasn’t what we thought it would be,” said Veronica Leger, a HookMedia spokeswoman.

The firm’s Atlanta office opened in June and employed four full-time staffers. The remainder of the cuts were from HookMedia’s Boston office, and came mostly from the business development, finance, marketing and human resources departments.

All affected employees were given severance packages. No cuts were made to the firm’s media teams, and client accounts that were serviced by the Atlanta team have been transferred to New York.

Belt-tightening is part of HookMedia’s two-pronged strategy to become profitable, despite the depressed Internet advertising market. The other is new service offerings such as Artemis, which offers advanced Web traffic analysis tools.

Privately held HookMedia was founded in 1998. It has raised more than $16 million in two venture rounds from Bain Capital, Audax and Still River. Clients include Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Cisco (won last week), EMC, HotJobs and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

HookMedia’s cuts follow reductions at Engage, the Andover, Mass., online ad network and technology firm. Engage, majority-owned by CMGI, slashed 550 employees, about half its staff, in a bid to become profitable.

Other sector players, including New York-based ad networks DoubleClick and 24/7 Media, have also been pummeled from the plummet in teh Web advertising market.

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