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Avenue A travels new road, paving way for Atlas unit

Avenue A, the Seattle digital marketing company, is poised to announce today that it is splitting the company into two operating units. The first unit will retain the Avenue A name and continue to center on what has been the company's core digital-marketing-agency business. The new division, Atlas DMT, will attempt to broaden the company's business model by marketing an updated version of Avenue A's Atlas Digital Marketing Suite to a customer base including traditional and interactive agencies. "A lot of it is making available what we've refined and invested in and perfected over the last four years [to a broader market]," said Avenue A President-CEO Brian McAndrews. The company talked to agencies, including Bcom3 Group's Starcom, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Aegis Group's Carat and WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, before moving ahead with the new unit.

The new unit, which Avenue A says will go up against DoubleClick's product DART for Advertisers, will be headed by Tom Sperry, who has been named president of Atlas. Like many online advertising companies, Avenue A has suffered in the advertising downturn. Though at year's end the company had cash and short-term investments totaling $134 million, its stock is trading below $1. It expects to announce first-quarter

earnings Apr. 24.

IRI study gives the over and under on brand sites

Even as consumer packaged-goods companies embrace the Web, a study from Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. says the investment isn't always spent wisely. The study, which will be released today, states that although the sites generally meet consumer needs, they may overdeliver on such features as games and community information as they underdeliver in other areas that consumers believe important.

For instance, although some 38% of manufacturer sites offer games and activities, only 12% of those surveyed expressed interest in such features. Conversely, respondents showed a keen interest in samples and special offers, an area in which many sites underdelivered. Fifty-five percent expressed interest in free samples, but only 22% of manufacturers sites offer them.

Consumer packaged-goods companies are also behind on measuring the return on investment they receive from their Web activities; less than a third of the 72% of companies that have brand sites have calculated ROI. The study, titled "CPG Online: What's Not Clicking for Manufacturers, Retailers, and Consumers," was produced by IRI's e.Ventures group.

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