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WHILE OTHER AGENCIES TALK, BOZELL ACTS INTERACTIVE UNIT URGES CLIENTS TO JOIN TEST BEDS

By Published on .

With many ad agencies still struggling to define their role in the new media landscape, Bozell is making sure it won't be left behind.

Like most of its counterparts, Bozell has issued a "white paper" on interactive communications and formed an internal unit to explore new technologies.

It has also gone several steps further, bringing together all of the agency's disciplines and committing significant resources to the effort to convince clients they can't travel into the future alone.

Bozell is even planning to offer its interactive expertise to non-clients. That's not surprising since the Interactive Marketing Group is chaired by Michael Drexler, president of BJK&E Media Group, which also outsources its services.

Mr. Drexler recently gathered the agency's leading new-media thinkers in one room to outline the group's vision and strategy.

"An agency has to bring a lot of resources to bear on the interactive development process, and we plan to be one of the foremost interactive agency groups," Mr. Drexler said. "A lot of agencies have said they're in the [interactive] business in one form or another, but the level of knowledge and experience is minimal.

"This committee can offer itself to non-clients and other agencies who don't have such resources and capabilities," Mr. Drexler added, noting that Bozell's interactive group includes executives from the media, creative, research, regulatory affairs, publicity and production departments, among others.

Bozell executives claim the difference in their approach is that they're not just thinking, but doing. The agency has produced new-media products, formed an alliance with an interactive TV group and convinced several clients to participate in tests.

Leading the charge with Mr. Drexler is Judy Black, senior VP-strategic media project manager, who has just agreed to continue for a third straight year as chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New Technologies committee.

Mr. Drexler claims 23 Bozell clients have expressed an interest in interactive media technologies and five have already agreed to join various tests.

He won't name names, but it's known that Chrysler Corp. has signed on to peddle cars through the Auto Mall on Time Warner's Full Service Network, slated to begin operation in Orlando later this year. Chrysler is also an advertiser on Interactive Network, as is American Airlines, a client of Bozell subsidiary Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas.

And as part of its charter agency agreement with IT Network's Interactive Channel, Bozell and client Avis Rent A Car will test an electronic travel guide that will allow consumers to scroll through airline schedules and fares.

Bozell is developing a computer system designed specifically to house the databases culled from consumer feedback to interactive tests, Ms. Black said.

Poppe Tyson, a New York-based Bozell subsidiary, is actively pitching new-media products to various clients and has developed a travel guide on CD-ROM that brings together two clients, Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages and the New Jersey Division of Travel & Tourism.

The disc is a menu-driven guide to southern New Jersey that combines audio, video and still graphics. Users can access in-depth information on hotels, state parks and golf resorts-including course layouts-and view detailed maps or lists of local hospitals, churches and synagogues.

Fergus O'Daly, chairman-ceo of Poppe Tyson and a member of Bozell's interactive group, said the disc is awaiting final client approval and various distribution methods are being weighed.

Jean-Claude Kaufmann, Bozell senior VP-director of broadcast production, stressed that interactive technologies won't fly with advertisers unless agencies are able to come up with creative applications that can lure consumers to ads.

"The technology's not important," Mr. Kaufmann said. "What's important is what you do with it."

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