Gotham already does offline ads for one of the best Net names of all, America Online. Now to prove it takes online media seriously, the New York ad agency is consolidating its interactive capabilities into a new division.
The agency today announces it promoted Christopher Hinkaty, 25, to the new post of interactive services director. The former account supervisor and a yet-to-be-named interactive services creative director will oversee the division, which will help Gotham clients develop an interactive strategy.
The 6-year-old Gotham previously went outside for some interactive work. Wholly owned by Interpublic Group of Cos., the agency has worked with Luminant, 26.2% owned by Young & Rubicam, to develop sites for clients such as Maybelline. Similarly, the agency has worked with Icon Nicholson, whose parent is partly owned by IPG, for ebank.com.
AOL, which works with Gotham on TV creative, handles interactive advertising in-house.
Other Gotham clients include Aerosoles, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Liz Claiborne Inc., Deutsche Bank, Newman's Own, Meredith Corp.'s Ladies' Home Journal and More magazines, and SunCom, which is part of AT&T Wireless Network.
In addition to AOL, dot-com clients include AOL's CompuServe, TradeOut (www.tradeout.com), Fidelity Investments' Powerstreet Online Trading (per
sonal100.fidelity.com), FurnitureFind.com, PlanetRx (planetrx.com) and Roxy.com (www.roxy.com).
Gotham already does some interactive work, which includes media and creative, accounting for 2.5% to 3% of billings this year. It hopes to grow that with the new i-arm.
NO SEPARATE MONIKER
The division, which could grow to at least five people but will not have a separate name, will provide online creative and media-buying. No Web site development is planned initially. The agency may acquire a Web-development shop or hiring specialists once its "[interactive] skill set is where we want it to be," said Sheri Baron, president.
"As an agency, we've been extremely successful in attracting online companies," Ms. Baron said. "We believe it is not until we put Chris' name and a legitimate departmental focus on interactive that we can go to clients and say that the same kind of standards that we place on other aspects of our business are reflected [in interactive]. We want people to know that Gotham understands that interactive is not something that should be taken lightly."
Gotham toyed with the idea of acquiring an interactive shop.
"Being part of IPG, we had a lot of interactive options available to us," Ms. Baron said. "We ultimately decided not to pursue that path. . . .To all of a sudden go buy people didn't make a lot of sense for us."
"In looking at how to most effectively deliver the experience in every channel, we've been doing [interactive] all along, but this creates the formality of having a specific person devoted to overseeing the discipline and having [it permeate the rest of the agency]," said Ted Pulton, exec VP.
Gotham formalized its interactive operations under Mr. Hinkaty, Mr. Baron said, to attract talent, expand interactive services and be more involved in developing clients' online strategies. In addition, the agency wants to maintain brand integrity across media.
"Technology's a commodity," Mr. Hinkaty said. "The ability to make banners that have lots of cool animation is important, but what's more important . . . is a consistent voice."
Competition among interactive shops has crowded some traditional agencies, such as Gotham: The agency dropped to No. 50 on Advertising Age's Interactive 100 roster (AA, June 19), down from 37 a year earlier.
But Ms. Baron contended Gotham's interactive strategy is not a "defensive" move. "This is not about filling a hole as much as it is preparing for opportunities," she said.
"This is the agency's formal commitment to being on the cutting edge of interactive media, whatever that may be," said Michael Jordan, exec VP.