Agency.com expands in U.K. with interactive TV ads

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LONDON -- Online Magic, a leading U.K. online services agency, has launched an interactive TV department to serve existing multinational clients seeking to launch interactive ad campaigns on digital TV networks.

The new iTV unit will develop the digital TV needs of clients such as The Economist Group, General Motors, and the entertainment section of Germany-based Bertelsmann AG, Europe's biggest media group.

Additionally, Online Magic will also handle the iTV strategies of clients at Agency.com, the rapidly expanding U.S.-based new media communications company, which merged with Online Magic in May. Clients of Agency.com, which is partly owned by U.S. advertising agency group Omnicom, include Unilever, American Express, and British Airways.

"As we begin to roll out our digital channel strategy across new media, Online Magic will be working with us on concepts for digital interactive TV," says Julia Groves, head of digital channel management at BA. "We expect to lead the U.K. travel market in interactive TV and believe Online Magic's input in this critical discovery phase will help make this goal a reality."

Online Magic's merger with Agency.com is part of the latter's ambitions to become a multinational new media agency. The objective is to provide high-profile international advertisers with expertise in new media marketing, planning, creative and technology, plus electronic commerce on the Internet and other interactive media.

In the U.K., Online Magic is effectively Agency.com's European division. The iTV unit was set up at Online Magic because Europe leads the international digital TV market in terms of household penetration. Multi-channel platforms already exist in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and launches are being planned in the U.K., Scandinavia and Poland.

Agency.com's strategy is to make its recent merger partners (Online Magic, Interactive Solutions and Spiral Media) full-service new media agencies. However, each of the newly bought units will also be a "center of excellence" for the respective specialist skills they brought to the merger. Agency.com bought Spiral Media, a New York-based Internet and digital media communications company, and Interactive Solutions, a Boston Internet technology specialist, in June.

New York-based Agency.com also has offices in Boston, San Francisco and Dallas.

Future Agency.com plans include opening an office in Chicago (organically or through an acquisition) and in the north-western region of the U.S. An Asian office is scheduled before the end of 1998. Agency.com expects revenues of more than $60 million this year.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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