INTERACTIVE: LOWE & PARTNERS/SMS OPENS NEW MEDIA SHOP: LOWE PARTNERS WITH CANADIAN COMPANY FOR INTERACTIVE PRODUCTION

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Aiming to offer its clients fully integrated new media services, Lowe & Partners/SMS today will announce a new interactive company formed in alliance with interactive development and marketing company Critical Mass, Calgary, Alberta.

LIMITED NEW MEDIA EXPERIENCE

The new affiliate company, Lowe/Critical Mass Interactive, will be based at the New York headquarters of Lowe & Partners/SMS, while production will continue to be done at the Canadian facilities of Critical Mass. The company will be chaired by Ted Hellard, president-CEO of Critical Mass.

Lowe & Partners/SMS, which to date has had a limited interactive presence dealing mainly with kiosks and CD-ROMs, says the alliance was necessary to keep its clients from turning to other agencies and developers with new media expertise.

"Some of the outside companies with the facilities, creativity and capabilities of new media were more successful in soliciting clients than we were," said Bill Vieser, exec VP of Lowe & Partners/SMS, who will become general manager of the new interactive company.

ALTERNATIVE TO IN-HOUSE UNIT

Rather than develop a stronger interactive unit in-house as many agencies have done, including those such as TBWA Chiat/Day and J. Walter Thompson USA-which launched and then shut down interactive units-Lowe & Partners/SMS opted to partner with a firm that already had expertise in new media development.

However, just as crucial for Lowe is Critical Mass' marketing savvy in helping clients understand how to integrate an array of new media such as CD-ROMs, kiosks and Web sites into a unified campaign.

INTEGRATING NEW MEDIA

"This is very important, for our present clients and in our quest for new business, to integrate new media and speak with one voice," said Marvin Sloves, co-chairman of Lowe & Partners/SMS.

He added that the goal of the new company will be to take the creative of a traditional campaign-that might encompass TV, radio, outdoor and print-and integrate it into a new media program utilizing CD-ROMs, kiosks and the Web.

While many advertisers and their agencies are focusing exclusively on Web site development for interactive, Lowe/Critical Mass Interactive said that until the Web is able to deliver high-quality video and other elements with good performance, it makes sense to utilize other new media as well.

CD-ROM CAMPAIGN TO LINK TO WEB

For example, an upcoming campaign for the new company's client Sports Illustrated will utilize a content-driven CD-ROM that will link to the Web sites of more than 30 sponsors, including Mercedes-Benz, United Airlines and about 15 hotels and 15 sports manufacturers.

This kind of integrated effort makes sense, as long as the client's overall strategy is considered, said Melissa Bane, senior analyst of Internet market strategies at the Yankee Group.

"A lot of companies don't understand that interactive doesn't just mean a Web site," said Ms. Bane. "It's not just CD-ROM, or push. You have to see the bigger scope and understand how to reach the customer."

Other Lowe/Critical Mass clients, including Mercedes and Denny's, plan to launch new interactive campaigns in the next few weeks developed by the new company.

Lowe/Critical Mass will initially include about eight marketing and project management people from Lowe & Partners/SMS, and will add one to three project managers soon. It will report to Mr. Sloves and Lee Garfinkel, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Lowe & Partners/SMS.

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