NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For marketers wanting to do something new, unusual or interesting in social media, there's a new grant they can apply for -- from a digital agency.
Dallas-based IMC2 has put $500,000 into what it calls the Social Media Innovation Fund out of which it will match, up to $50,000, what a marketer spends on a social-media project that, in the agency's words, "creates brand impact and showcases our thought leadership and offerings."
The program is part smart new-business tactic and part incentive to get clients to bring it work in what is an ever more important space for marketers, social media.
"We have the intention of doing at least a million dollars of really interesting social-media work," said Doug Levy, founder and CEO of the independent digital shop. "We want to work with certain kinds of companies, those that are interested in building relationship between brands and people. We hope this helps us find the kinds of brands that are a good fit for us."
There are a couple requirements: The business has to be new to the agency or the work has to be incremental to an existing business that a marketer has with the shop. Projects receiving the money have to be approved by the agency's team of social-media trend experts. Clients also have to be open to allowing the agency to use the work in case studies and PR efforts.
The first client to take advantage of the deal is Coca-Cola, which is working with the agency on a project that involves existing social networks. The marketer was mum on exact details, but Carol Kruse, Coca-Cola's VP-global interactive marketing, described it as "testing new models with Facebook, [figuring out] what's the best way to connect our brand with our consumers and taking that idea to Bebo, Hi5, Orkut and MySpace and other social networks we work with around the world."
Dressing up a discount?
IMC2 said marketers will know they're getting the matching funds because every project has a cost associated with it, based largely on billable hourly rates. Once an estimate is set, the agency will apply the matching funds to offset part of the cost. When asked if this was just another way to "dress up a discount" -- something some clients are looking ] for as their budgets shrink, Mr. Levy acknowledged that in a way it is a discount.
"It's a discount of dollars to clients under certain circumstances to do the kind of work we find interesting," he said. "Companies make investments all the time. We just thought this was an interesting way to make an investment and to move social media as a marketing tool forward."
Ms. Kruse called grant "accretive" to her budget and said she expects the move to generate attention for IMC2 at a time when marketers' budgets being squeezed.
"Anyone who has a marketing budget is looking at how you allocate it, and when you're in the realm of innovation and testing and learning, you don't have an unlimited budget," she said. "You have a small amount of funds and you want to get the most out of it. The 50-50 share is letting us do more -- it basically doubled the funding of this particular project."
Coca-Cola has an existing relationship with IMC2 and said the grant didn't change its agency choice for the project, but Ms. Kruse noted it will help IMC2 build its portfolio of social-media programs, which to a marketer seeking an agency is "critical."
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