SCOPING OUT EUROPE'S INTERACTIVE ACTIVITY

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LONDON-Nearly all of London's major agencies are grappling with multimedia, but some are racing down the superhighway in overdrive while others are still searching for the on-ramp.

Here's a snapshot of what the major European agencies are doing:

Abbott Mead Vickers/ BBDO is the main agency for British Telecom, which is starting a test in 2,500 British homes offering on-demand home shopping, home banking and education.

While the agency doesn't have an interactive department, Alan Brydon, media director, said the shop's core group of about seven interactive experts works with others from individual account groups.

The agency is recommending several clients for the BT test, including Pepsi-Cola, Gillette, Volvo, Sainsbury and BBC Magazines. "Pepsi is showing signs of interest in terms of developing interesting ads for the test," he said.

Bates Dorland Interactive's proactive group with six full-time staffers is planning a major research study on whether consumers will use interactive media. The study is scheduled for later this year in the U.K., followed by other European markets.

Bates Dorland hired BDI Chief Garret O'Leary, previously chief executive of Chris Still Communication's electronic marketing division, to develop an interactive unit last May.

BDI is developing standalone kiosks for Land Rover's deluxe Range Rover model to be used in dealerships. Likely to be tested in Southeast Asia later this year, the kiosks allow viewers to learn more about the model, watch an image-oriented advertorial that Bates created for Range Rover's U.K. introduction last September, or simply learn about fascinating parts of the world.

BDI is also hoping to sign up four of its clients, which it declines to name, for British Airways' upcoming interactive inflight program (offering shopping, videogames and entertainment) and the agency is considering infomercials on Carlton TV's VideoPlus system, a feature built into virtually all U.K. VCRs. Advertisers add a VideoPlus number to the end of their spots and then interested viewers can punch the number into their VCR remote control, allowing the machine to tape a 31/2 minute video brochure.

Chiat/Day, taking advantage of an exclusive agreement with Videotron, is creating ads and programming for an interactive channel for the cable operator's 70,000-plus viewers in London this April. Lever Bros., Body Shop and retailer Next have all signed up, but only the Body Shop is a Chiat/Day client.

John Crowley, Chiat/Day director of media communications, said he is limiting the number of advertisers to 10.

In addition to Mr. Crowley, the media communications department includes Media Communications Planner Jane Ostler. Both hold other media-related responsibilities. "We don't think the future is in having an interactive department," Mr. Crowley said, noting that interactive is only one tool in a mixed bag of promotional venues.

Grey Europe held its first interactive conference in Amsterdam last October and has created a Grey Europe Interactive Steering Committee consisting of five executives chaired by John Shannon, president of Grey International. The objective is to "stay current on what is going on, have a direct exposure with interactive products and programs and work with clients to make sure that they are exposed to interactive programs appropriate to their needs," Mr. Shannon said.

Lowe Howard-Spink is by far the most actively interactive shop in Europe. The agency has designated two people to work full time on new media. They are New Media Development Director Mark Dickinson, formerly media group manager, and New Media Manager Robert Hamilton, a former computer consultant. Lowe also has a task force of about eight London department heads.

Lowe is lining up consumer-activated in-store kiosks for U.K. supermarket chain Tesco and others in dealerships of General Motors' U.K. subsidiary Vauxhall. Lloyds' Bank would like to experiment with personal banking in the BT test and Vauxhall with interactive ads. Lowe is also recommending that Lloyds, Smirnoff, Vauxhall, Tesco and Hanson take part in the British Airways' inflight interactive program slated to take off next August on certain flights from London to Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Miami.

Finally, the agency is eager to get Vauxhall and Lloyds signed up on the U.K. daily The Telegraph's electronic newspaper on the World Wide Web. Starting this month, the Electronic Telegraph-a scaled down version of the newspaper offered on the Internet-will take ads.

Simon Aboud, VP-international media, McCann-Erickson, said the agency held its first of a series of focus groups on interactive media last October. "Multimedia is a high priority, but read it as the future," he said.

As a result, McCann doesn't have an interactive department, but about 10 people in London spend some time on interactive.

On the Continent, the aim is two interactive people in each major office. "We want people in account planning, account management and creative involved," said Mr. Aboud.

has set up a new media task force consisting of creatives, production people and media buyers and planners. The cross-disciplinary task force is headed by Rhona Tridgell, client services director O&M Media.

About 20 people are involved in interactive in some way, but there are no full-time interactive people. "Until the media opportunities are there, we don't want to have a separate department," said Ms. Tridgell.

O&M hopes to sign its clients up onto the Electronic Telegraph, as well as the BT test.

Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising is still working out how its Interactive Plus unit will be structured across Europe, said Saatchi Joint Managing Director Moray Mac-Lennan. One consideration is a team approach, each consisting of a media executive, a technical expert and a creative staffer in the seven major European markets-Spain, France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Execs from across Europe are meeting here this month to hash out the details and possibly name a chief executive.

The agency has worked up a deal for Mars-a client now under review due to Maurice Saatchi's ouster from the Saatchi board-to tie in with a new videogame from Nintendo called Bikermice from Mars. In the game, Snickers bars are used to satisfy the hunger of the Bikermice. The game will be rolled out worldwide except the U.S. and Canada this month.

Saatchi is also running a newspaper and magazine ad campaign early this year to advertise retailer PC World's new 10-page brochure to be available early in 1995 on the Internet. Through the video brochure, consumers will be able to order merchandise from PC World.

Saatchi client Two-Way TV, a licensee of U.S. company Interactive Network, starts a six-week field trial in Oxford this March enabling TV viewers to play along with game shows and win prizes. Two-Way TV starts up nationally in the U.K. this fall, with a $12 million Saatchi campaign.

J. Walter Thompson Co.'s Worldwide Interactive Group is structured on a global basis with headquarters in New York. Jean Pool, JWT senior VP-director USA media services, is at the helm with about 14 people reporting to her across the globe.

"There are a lot of [interactive] things going on, not just in the U.S. so we're trying to get our multinational clients involved worldwide," said Ms. Pool. She has two London-based executives responsible for interactive in Europe, Ron de Pere, executive media director JWT Europe, and David Byles, media director JWT London.

In Europe, Ms. Pool says, JWT is closely monitoring various tests in France, the U.K. and the Netherlands and would like to get JWT's package goods clients-Warner Lambert, Kraft General Foods and Kellogg Co.-involved in the BT test.

"Packaged goods will be the toughest one to translate so it makes sense to do it now while it's cheap," said Ms. Pool.

Young & Rubicam International Media Manager Duncan Coates is more skeptical about the current possibilities in interactive, noting that Europe is 10 years behind the U.S. "The technology is largely being developed in the States so the takeup is slower here," he said.

Y&R does not have a dedicated interactive task force but a loosely arranged group of above-the-line staffers throughout Europe who look at new media.

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