Times Co. Digital pairs up with Ogilvy

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Just in time for Valentine's Day, Times Company Digital found an advertising agency soul mate. The Internet division of the New York Times Co. cut short its $40 million review last week after making a connection with Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

Times Company Digital-the parent of New York Times on the Web (nytimes.com), New York Today (nytoday.com), Boston.com, WineToday.com, GolfDigest.com and Abuzz-had cut its list of finalists to six. The company planned to give the group a creative assignment and one month to complete it. Instead, after filling out one questionnaire and one face-to-face meeting, Ogilvy got the job.

`OGILVY HIT IT RIGHT'

"Ogilvy hit it so right and we decided, as a quick-moving Internet company, if it matched and it meant saving us a month, it just made sense," said David Thurm, chief operating officer of Times Company Digital. "One of the main purposes of the meetings was chemistry. We had a sense that [Ogilvy] was a group that would listen to us, but would also bring a lot of their own ideas to the table."

He added that the other factors that drew Times Company Digital to Ogilvy was the agency's multiple media experience, as evidenced by clients such as American Express Co. and IBM Corp., and its ability to take established brands to "new places."

NATURAL MATCH

Bill Gray, Ogilvy New York president, deferred to the company on the reason why the agency was chosen, but added, "I think we've got a lot of what matches naturally with them."

He pointed out Ogilvy's success with strong traditional brands, its integration capabilities and ability to act quickly. Ogilvy's other dot-com clients include WebMD, MotherNature.com and Steve Brill's Contentville.

Mr. Thurm said the unifying feature of all six Times Company Digital sites is the "high-quality audience." While he is not yet sure how much of the budget will be allocated to each property, Mr. Thurm said The New York Times site (the largest) and Abuzz (the newest) each will "get a lot of attention."

He also pointed out that GolfDigest will relaunch Feb. 15 and WineToday has a lot of rich content that needs to be played up.

"We'll need attention for all of them," Mr. Thurm said.

The two groups will meet this week to discuss budget allocation, brand strategy and creative. Longtime Ogilvy staffers will be reunited with Martin Nisenholtz, chief executive of Times Company Digital. Mr. Nisenholtz worked on some of the earliest interactive efforts at Ogilvy from 1983 to 1994. He was not involved in the meetings to select an agency.

AAR/Bob Wolf & Partners, New York and Los Angeles, handled the review. The other finalists in the review were Cliff Freeman & Partners, DDB Worldwide, FCB Worldwide and Y&R Advertising, all New York.

Deutsch, New York, dropped out of the review after it was named a finalist.

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