Shop turns to collaboration tool

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McCann WorldGroup, part of Interpublic Group of Cos. Inc., is among a growing number of marketing communications agencies using collaboration software for internal and external communications. MCT:collaborative, the agency’s marketing communication technologies group, is giving employees and clients more effective ways to communicate and share work in progress through a portal called McWisdom that launched last year.

The portal is both an intranet for internal communications and an extranet for client collaboration. It’s based on information server software and information portal software from Hyperwave Information Management Inc., part of Hyperwave AG.

"Our clients were asking for something that would allow us to work in a more collaborative environment," said Carolyn Hall, managing director of MCT:collaborative, which supports McCann employees and clients.

The portal features include version control for software updates, personalized views of work in progress and detailed project status across business lines such as direct marketing and PR.

Some clients, such as United Parcel Service of America Inc., have relationships across several McCann business lines, including advertising and direct marketing, and prior to the portal had no way of seeing a complete picture of campaigns in progress.

Now, by logging on to a secure area of the McCann Web site, clients and employees can see creative development, the media plan, status of ads running and reports on campaign performance.

When the portal launched in April 2000 it had 2,000 users globally. It now has about 8,000 users, about 1,000 of whom are McCann employees, Hall said.

Ohio Electric Choice, a government-funded group that provides information to consumers and small businesses about electricity choices in Ohio, is one McCann client using McWisdom.

"It really ensures that we don’t duplicate efforts on the part of the different agencies," said Lee Ruh, education programs administrator for Ohio Electric Choice, pointing to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel and five local electric utilities, all of which have access to the portal to see campaigns in progress.

"It streamlines the approval and review process for various components [of electricity campaigns]," Ruh said. "It saves us time, and time is money."

Now McCann is in the process of integrating other applications, such as SAP software, into the portal.

The Hyperwave software is priced starting at $200,000 for the base system, depending on users and functionality, plus portal interfaces.

"If you really think about what ad agencies do, they need to provide a branded site for their clients, security for clients, collaborative features built into the product and the ability to interact online," said Tim Kounadis, VP-North American marketing for Hyperwave Information Management.

Hyperwave is one of several software companies targeting ad agencies and marketing organizations with collaboration software. Depending on the vendor, the software is called marketing resource management, marketing project management or enterprise resource management.

"There is an interesting debate going on" among collaboration software vendors, said Jean-Gabriel Henry, senior analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix Inc. "Do you [sell to] advertising agencies or marketing organizations?"

He said some vendors have chosen to market their collaboration systems directly to advertisers, because ad agencies typically have not invested heavily in back-office technology. However, he added, "ad agencies can pass along costs directly to the marketing departments. If they are not carrying the costs [of software], it is an ASP model."

Some of the other vendors selling to ad agencies include Sourcemine Inc., Intraspect Software Inc. and Swan Systems Inc., Henry said.

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