Cupertino, Calif.-based CKS is a fast-growing agency specializing in new-media technologies. It also now enjoys the distinction of being one of the first shops to gain agency of record status in that area.
The appointment validates the emergence of interactive media as a viable marketing tool. Most new-media shops until now have relied on project work and informal relationships with marketers.
"NBC is saying they take this whole area very seriously," said Mark Kvamme, CKS president-CEO. "There's been a lot of playing around in this area and now it's time to get serious and figure out how it all integrates into the whole" marketing arsenal.
CKS is discussing interactive agency of record relationships with three or four other clients, he added.
"There's going to be a new agency relationship [and] I think you're going to see a lot of this," Mr. Kvamme said. "It's a whole different discipline."
NBC and CKS will work on a variety of projects aimed at building interactive programs not just for the network, but also for its advertisers. Areas of interest include online services, multimedia production, CD-ROM and other computer-based platforms and two-way TV.
The network and agency are also co-sponsoring what Mr. Kvamme called "an exhaustive research study" on how new media will impact marketers. The results, expected in six months, will be distributed to all of NBC's advertisers and their agencies and all CKS clients.
How CKS will be compensated has yet to be determined since most new-media billings are not based on commissions. Compensation will be based on a mixture of retainers and project fees, said Alan Cohen, exec VP-marketing, NBC TV.
NBC already has several new-media initiatives, notably its NBC Online area on America Online. The network has built an online area for McDonald's Corp., working with Leo Burnett USA and Red Dot Interactive, San Francisco.
D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles, is NBC's agency for media buying; most of its creative work for marketing and promotion campaigns is handled in-house.
Mr. Cohen said the network will continue to work with other agencies' interactive units as part of its work with clients. But CKS will be NBC's primary interactive partner.
"We decided to make a commitment to explore the future of interactive marketing, not just rest on what we had done," Mr. Cohen said.
"We're looking at how we can use these new media and integrate them with advertisers and integrate that with the viewing experience," he added.
The other broadcast networks are also exploring interactive programs but haven't yet taken the same step with agencies. CBS has come the closest, parceling out all interactive work to date to Modem Media, a Westport, Conn.-based new-media agency. CBS is online with Prodigy and just released its first fall preview CD-ROM.
"What you're really after is a strategic partnership with your client," said Gerry O'Connell, general partner at Modem. "The term agency of record is a nice label to put on those efforts." Modem, too, is talking to several clients about more formal relationships, he said.
CKS has net revenues of $25 million and claims to be doubling in size every six months.