Interactive Plus, Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's dedicated interactive group, grew out of a new-media team the agency founded 15 years ago to answer a plethora of client questions about cable TV.
The multidisciplinary group, headed by Erica Gruen, senior VP-associate director of TV information and new media, got its official moniker early this year. Ms. Gruen's boss, Exec VP-Director of Strategic Media Resources Betsy Frank, is deeply involved in new-media issues, as is her boss, Exec VP-Director of Media Allen Banks.
Interactive Plus currently is developing a study of future interactive TV test bed participants. With input from a cultural anthropologist, the study will poll consumers about their use of interactive TV, and the findings will be made available to Saatchi clients on a proprietary basis.
Project-wise, the agency group-comprising 12 staffers dedicated part-time-concentrates a great deal on online services.
For Toyota Motor Sales USA, Saatchi set up a Prodigy area where Toyota owners can communicate with one another and the company. Sara Lee Corp.'s L'Eggs hosiery offers catalog shopping on Prodigy. One client has signed on to participate in Canada's UBI TV project in Chicoutimi, Quebec.
At Saatchi unit Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, the agency is said to be working with client Sony Imagesoft on several interactive projects in the videogame category, where the electronics giant is looking at using CD-ROM software to download interactive programming directly into homes. Sony is also said to be talking with Blockbuster Video and interactive kiosk companies about joint projects.
Team One, another Saatchi unit, has yet to wade far into the interactive waters.
"We're still in the exploratory stage," said Bonnie Chan, Team One's communications director and head of its year-old Team 2000 interactive marketing unit. Once the agency is educated, Ms. Chan hopes to do the same for clients, including Adidas America and Toyota's Lexus division.
What holds the most promise for the immediate future, Ms. Gruen said, is an anticipated second wave of computer online services that will include video capabilities.
"That's when we're going to see a tremendous boom in consumer access and use," she said. "That's what we're all waiting for."