INTERACTIVE: WEST COAST SPOTLIGHT: BOXTOP RIDES INTERACTIVE WAVE IN LA: NEW MEDIA SHOP EYES FUTURE IN TECHNOLOGY AND ACQUISITIONS

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Los angeles company BoxTop Interactive sees a sea change in the interactive agency business with the tide turning to the West.

"What you're starting to see is a national move to L.A. and the Valley," said President-CEO Kevin Wall. "It's important that we as a community here begin to project that L.A. exists and is earning a lot of revenue in the interactive business."

Mr. Wall is on the Los Angeles mayoral roundtable committee that recently named the Los Angeles area "Digital Coast," a la New York's Silicon Alley or the San Francisco area's Silicon Valley.

ROOTS IN ENTERTAINMENT

BoxTop, which merged with Atlanta-based corporate interactive solutions company iXL in May 1997, earned a combined income of $25 million last year. BoxTop opened in 1995, building its reputation on its extensive entertainment online work, which currently accounts for about 25% of its business.

Mr. Wall's roots are in entertainment, having most recently presided over Radio Vision, a TV and radio production and distribution company, which did shows such as Michael Jackson's "Live From Bucharest," among others.

DESIGN BRINGS TOP DOLLAR

However, as advertiser attention moved to the Net, BoxTop solidified its consumer and business-to-business work.

The company is divided into three divisions -- WebDesign, to handle creative for entertainment and consumer brands; Productions, to create platform independent programming and original content; and Technologies, to develop and enhance digital technologies and software.

"We see the WebDesign division as being the leader in terms of revenue right now and we see technologies and productions as the future," Mr. Wall said.

WebDesign clients include Frito-Lay, Guess?, SegaSoft, Sun Microsystems and Universal New Media Group. Technologies is developing iVisit, a new way to chat and push advertising to the desktop -- with software by the creators of CU-SeeMe software, who recently joined BoxTop.

Its production division includes BoxTop Live, which handles online chat forums..

EXPANSION PLANS

The company has continued on the acquisition path. Late last year, it bought design shops Small World in New York and Green Room in San Francisco, with plans to continue buying or opening offices in Boston, Chicago and Denver in 1998. iXL has offices in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., London, Los Angeles, New York, Memphis, Tenn., and Portland, Ore.

"In one year, we see ourselves being in the very top tier in agencies of record for major consumer brand companies," Mr. Wall said. "We're building today a modern day studio like the studios of the '30s and '40s."

With the growth, plans for going public are being discussed.

"Yes, but we can't talk about that," Mr. Wall said. "We're focusing on making acquisitions and constantly doubling our growth."

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