Avenue A/Razorfish CEO Talks of Relationship With Microsoft

Clark Kokich Explains How Acquisition Affects Agency

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -– Clark Kokich's isn't replacing anybody. His stepping into the CEO suite at Avenue A/ Razorfish is an important appointment as Microsoft is in the process of acquiring the agency's parent company, aQuantive.
Clark Kokich
Clark Kokich Credit: Brian Smale

"As we're preparing to become part of Microsoft, we thought it was important to clarify everyone's role in the new organization. ... We'll be operating independently from Microsoft, so having our own CEO is important as part of that," he said.

'Arm's length'
In May, Microsoft revealed that is was acquiring Avenue A/Razorfish, and immediately the industry questioned how the digital ad agency would fit in with a company that runs MSN.com. Mr. Kokich said the agency will operate impartially and "at arm's length." Microsoft and MSN will "have to continue to earn our client's business, and at the same time we don't expect to get any preference from Microsoft or MSN," he said.

Still, he couched that by explaining executives believe there are opportunities to work together, because both Microsoft and Avenue A/Razorfish are trying to create and invent a future where digital experiences are ubiquitous. One example would be with Microsoft's Silverlight technology, which is the company's Flash competitor.

"We've already been very aggressive in exploiting that new technology," Mr. Kokich said, adding that one of his top technologists was devoted fulltime to developing the agency's Silverlight capability even before Microsoft announced it planned to acquire aQuantive. "There'll be more opportunities for us to demonstrate to industry what's possible," he added.

International expansion is also a priority for Avenue A/Razorfish, having in January partnered with Dentsu to create Dentsu/Avenue A/Razorfish. In 2005, it acquired DNA in the U.K. and since then has added Amnesia in Australia, Neue Digitale in Germany and e-Crusade in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

More to do
"We've expanded rapidly, but we're not done," Mr. Kokich said. The agency is in the process of identifying additional markets to enter and building an international management team, which Keith Metzger who reports to Mr. Kokich, is leading.

The other area of priority remains emerging media: gaming, mobile, video on demand, desktop gadgets and RSS feeds.

"What we're experiencing now is clients are receptive to ideas and innovation in emerging media group," Mr. Kokich added.
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