AGENCIES LAG IN COMPUTER USAGE;SURVEY SHOWS FEW SHOPS HAVE TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY

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Most ad agencies don't have an information technology plan to go along with their overall business strategy, a survey by AdMedia Corporate Advisors reveals.

AdMedia, a New York consulting and investment banking company, surveyed more than 50 U.S. agencies to understand how well they use information technology.

The results were a "mixed bag," said Michael Tarzia, an AdMedia senior consultant who helped conduct the survey.

NOT AS EFFECTIVE

Certain agency departments, particularly creative and production, have put computers to good use. But as a group, ad agencies don't use hardware, systems and networks as effectively as other industries, Mr. Tarzia said. He estimates that fewer than half of all agencies have local area networks.

"A lot of the smaller agencies, especially direct marketing and sales promotion agencies, are more sophisticated than the larger agencies," said Richard Baty, also a senior consultant at AdMedia.

DEARTH OF TALENT

One problem is a dearth of high-level systems talent. Only a handful of the top multinational agencies have chief information officers and few smaller shops have managers in senior positions.

That helps explain why so few agencies have a technology strategy to complement agency growth plans, Mr. Tarzia said.

Most agencies told AdMedia that clients dictate their information technology agenda. Messrs. Tarzia and Baty, who work for agencies on a consulting basis, said their experience shows agency clients usually have more advanced systems.

`UNDER THE GUN'

"Agencies are really kind of under the gun from a lot of clients," said Bob Huntington, managing director of AdMedia.

Almost 60% of respondents said they're considering systems that would give clients online access to agency media plans, creative work and account groups.

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