Marketers want technical expertise from online agencies

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Clients seeking online agencies agree on a few things: They want an agency partner that has superb technical expertise, proven experience and strong creative skills. Beyond that, they are divided on whether to work with a single agency or multiple agencies for online and offline work, the size of an agency and whether the agency is independent or part of a global network.

UGS, a product lifecycle management company spun off from software giant EDS in May 2004, wanted an online agency to launch a new Web site and corporate identity.

"We had the challenge of launching a new Web site on the same day that we began operating as an independent company, and the challenge of building a new brand," said John Clendening, senior VP-marketing communications at UGS, which was purchased by three private equity partners. "It was very important to have a very strong agency as a partner."

Prior to its spin-off, UGS had been working with Loeffler Ketchum Mountjoy Advertising in Charlotte, N.C. It was referred to ad agency AKQA by one of its new owners, which had a prior relationship with the San Francisco-based agency.

Clendening said he had several criteria when it came to selecting an agency.

"The first thing I look for in an agency is how smart are they? How deeply do they appear to understand our business?" he said.

Also, he said, "We wanted consistency of message and look and feel, and the fewer agencies you work with, the easier it is to achieve."

In its presentation to UGS, AKQA did a competitive analysis of the company's advertising and that of its competitors. "They really showed a strategic understanding of our business with a competitive review," Clendening said.

Web redesign wins print work

UGS hired AKQA to redesign its Web site, and it was so impressed with the online work that it hired the agency for its offline work as well. So far, AKQA has developed two print executions for UGS and is set to roll out its third this month.

"I tend to believe in consolidating agencies, but the trick in having the same agency do online and traditional work is twofold," Clendening said. "Does the agency have the skill sets in both areas to do great work, and is there a connection point internally at the agency so the people doing the offline work understand the online work?"

"AKQA has done great work," he added.

Renesas Technology Corp., a Tokyo-based semiconductor manufacturer that was founded in 2003 through the merger of the semiconductor divisions of Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric, was also seeking an agency to handle its Web site design and other online marketing efforts.

For its offline advertising, Renesas works with Tokyu, a Japanese advertising agency, and several PR agencies in different global regions. For its online efforts, it had several challenges.

"We had to brand a new name, pull together two previously competing semiconductor companies and, as a global company, we had to address many different issues for different regions of the world, including how they would use the Web site for business," said Kurt Ibsen, director of communications for San Jose-based Renesas Technology America and global Web program manager for the parent company.

Ibsen said the criteria for an online agency included strong knowledge of the technical environment, proven success and a global reach.

"We wanted a smaller-sized firm," added Tyler Crockett, e-business manager for Renesas. "We didn't want to end up with 60 consultants on site."

Renesas identified agencies it was interested in talking to by consulting with industry peers and doing Internet research. It then interviewed agencies and did extensive research on their global capabilities.

"We wanted to make sure that if a company said it had a strength with resources in Japan, did that mean one salesperson or a full staff on the ground," Crockett said.

Renesas ended up selecting Razorfish, which was acquired by aQuantive in July and merged with aQuantive's Avenue A.

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