Don't get Barry Layne started on the subject of two-way TV.
"I've got a real problem today with interactive television technology tests," said Mr. Layne, VP-director, Ketchum Interactive Group.
"I can endorse CD-ROM. I can endorse online. I can endorse place-based systems and two-way kiosks," he said. "We've done it. It works. But I believe that advertising agencies are doing a disservice to their clients by recommending that they pay to support interactive TV trials. I can't endorse the unknown."
Ketchum Communications formed its interactive group in 1992, but kept its profile low. That changed with the hiring in June of Mr. Layne, an outspoken former bureau chief for the Hollywood Reporter.
Ketchum Interactive Group is overseen by Managing Director Lynn Upshaw, also exec VP-chief operating officer of Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco. Mr. Layne operates out of Ketchum's Los Angeles office with a staff of two: Paul Ratzky, project manager, who's also VP-director of communications, Ketchum Directory Advertising; and Valen Hill, interactive group coordinator.
Ketchum Interactive Group works not just with Ketchum's ad agency, but also its public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing and Yellow Pages arms. Mr. Layne believes that structure gives Ketchum an advantage over agency competitors. "There are very few people out there who will walk in with a strictly advertising project right now in interactive."
Despite concerns about interactive TV tests, Ketchum is a believer in two-way communications and is actively steering clients toward existing technologies. It has developed a successful kiosk program for Acura, and a children's CD-ROM for Dole Foods.
"We're not about toe-testing and tire-kicking," said Mr. Layne. "We're about real-world applications to help our clients do business, and because we're not tied to advertising we have a broader perspective."