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Interactive agencies offer help with increasingly complex online marketing

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Interactive agencies are becoming stronger strategic partners with b-to-b clients as the Web becomes a more integral part of doing business.

Expanded services at interactive agencies include brand architecture, strategic consulting, content integration and using Web 2.0 technologies to solve business problems such as customer retention, sales enablement and technical support.

"We are doing a lot of strategy and a lot of Web 2.0," said Martin Reidy, president of Modem Media, San Francisco, winner in the interactive agency category.

"Businesses are really interested in Web 2.0 because there are some real practical uses for it. This new world is very relevant to the business world."

For example, Modem uses online video for clients such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Ericsson to create compelling yet humorous content, which it then distributes over the Web in viral campaigns, on social networking sites and in mobile applications.

Reidy said that since Modem's early days as an online agency, mostly putting banner ads on Web sites, the company's vision has changed.

"Now it is not just about Web sites or doing banners ads but how do we target specific business groups," Reidy said. "We are hiring more and more consulting types, and it is getting more sophisticated."

Jeremi Karnell, president of Boston-based OTOi, the interactive agency of One to One Interactive, also said clients are demanding more sophisticated services from their interactive agency partners.

"CMOs are looking for more full-service solutions," Karnell said. OTOi was named runner-up in the interactive agency category.

Last year, One to One Interactive completed a restructuring in which it formed interactive agency OTOi, technology company OTOlabs and media company OTOnetworks.

"This allows us to have a more diverse revenue stream, both from technology and on the media side, and it seems to be where our customers are putting a lot of value," Karnell said.

"The whole vision for OTOlabs was to look at the trends going on in the marketplace, and provide a technological infrastructure that enables [clients] to stay advanced in digital marketing."

One of the key trends, he said, is developing executable Internet applications, such as widgets and mobile applications.

One to One last year acquired AdTools, which develops branded desktop applications, to provide services such as automatically updating information channels and developing

online community functions.

On the media side, OTOnetworks provides performance-based advertising solutions, including cost-per-lead and cost-per-acquisition, across a network of sites and "pods" of sites geared toward specific audience segments.

Digitas, Boston, which received honorable mention in the interactive agency category, is also developing interactive applications for its clients, making heavy use of online communities and content management.

"As interactive agencies are given a more equal seat at the brand table, the work is coming under increasing scrutiny, which pushes it to be smarter, more creative and more innovative every day," said Laura Lang, president of Digitas. "It's no longer just about creating a Web site, or about supplementing a client's existing traditional TV campaign with online components. It's about finding a way to engage with people who want to buy your product or service."

For client IBM Corp., Digitas developed the Executive Interaction Channel, an interactive application for CEOs. Digitas created a library of IBM thought-leadership content—including white papers, podcasts and online videos—and created a Web site to allow CEOs to access and interact with the content.

"People are seeing that the Internet space is where customers really connect with brands," Lang said.

"Our clients, including IBM, continue to show the inventiveness that is used to create social networks that serve the sophisticated needs of business-to-business communication."

For AT&T, Digitas created the AT&T Networking Exchange, an online resource center for technology decision-makers. The interactive program delivers webcasts, case studies and opinion across online and offline channels, leveraging customer preferences and behavioral data.

The program was so successful that it resulted in a 25% increase in customer satisfaction and a 42% increase in purchase consideration.

  Large Agencies Midsize Agencies Small Agencies Interactive Agencies
Winner McCann Erickson HSR Business to Business Mobium Group Modem Media
Runner-up Ogilvy North America Doremus PJA Advertising+Marketing OTOi
Honorable Mention BBDO New York Slack Barshinger Stein Rogan+Partners Digitas
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