A useful, practical Web site incorporating a yellow pages directory from BBDO Interactive in Vancouver has drawn more than 4,000 users a day, helping the agency to bring in $750,000 in billings last year.
And after starting in mid-1996, Area 51, a subsidiary of Palmer Jarvis, has grown to about 25 employees and yearly revenue close to seven figures, prompting agency plans to seek Web clients beyond Canada. Four new Internet sites-two more from Area 51 and two from BBDO Interactive-for major international marketers are expected to go online early this year, the agencies said.
BBDO's first Web site, BC Tel Yellow Pages (www.bcyellowpages.com), was billed as a complete information source for local consumers when it premiered in early 1996 as a partnership between the agency and Yellow Pages publisher Dominion Directory Co. "It's a joint venture between a client and an agency," said David Stanger, senior VP-interactive services at BBDO Vancouver. "It's a unique relationship."
BBDO Interactive in Vancouver has grown to 20 full-time staff with revenue of about $1.8 million predicted for this year. Billings are split evenly between new and existing agency clients, Mr. Stanger said, but new accounts are expected to comprise about 65% of interactive business by year's end.
The Yellow Pages site has helped BBDO Interactive land other clients, including Yukon Tourism, the Heart & Stroke Foundation and Citizens Bank of Canada, which will be the country's first branchless bank when it opens early this year. A Canada-wide Yellow Pages site is expected to be online by the middle of this month. On the international front, BBDO Interactive in Vancouver and BBDO in New York have created Internet ad banners for Apple Computer in Latin America.
Of the Area 51 interactive Web sites, the most popular is Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) from Clearly Canadian Beverage Co. in Vancouver. The site is designed to "create a following" for the flavored-water beverage of the same name. The Orbitz site is racking up so many visitors that Clearly Canadian has hired someone full time just to answer e-mail.
Recognition throughout North America praising the Clearly Canadian site has prompted the agency to look further afield. "We're going to push out the boundaries and move toward international clients," said Mr. Schulz, who founded a large Internet access provider before leaving it to help start Area 51 for British Columbia's No. 1 ad agency.
There was need but not skill for an interactive arm of Palmer Jarvis, he recalled. "[The agency] didn't have the technical know-how to build these [neededsites," said Mr. Schultz, who was tapped for the job.
About 70% of Area 51's business stems from new clients that came to the agency solely for its Internet expertise. Thirty-five Area 51-created sites will be online this month, including creations for Tourism Vancouver, Canadian pollster Angus Reid Group and the Million Dollar Ice Picks hockey pool that is licensed by the National Hockey League Players' Association.
The Area 51 name hails from a shadowy military test site in the Nevada desert. "We wanted that same mystique," Mr. Schulz said.