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An interest in interactive technology has prompted U.K.-based personal-care products chain Body Shop to appoint its first advertising agency ever, Chiat/Day, London.

But Body Shop's aversion to conventional advertising is expected to continue, and the company insists on referring to Chiat/Day as "strategic communications consultants."

"We won't be making adverts," said John Crowley, director of media communications at Chiat/Day. "Conversations began when [Body Shop CEO] Anita Roddick wanted to know about the interactive TV test we're doing and we went to talk to her."

Chiat/Day is developing interactive ads and programming for an interactive channel on Videotron's 65,000-home cable system in London starting this winter. Mr. Crowley refused to confirm whether Body Shop is one of the marketers signed up for the test.

The agency has already taken up one of Body Shop's many social causes and given it an interactive twist.

Learning that Ms. Roddick was campaigning for the freedom of a Nigerian tribal leader imprisoned for protesting destructive oil exploration on his Ogoni tribe's farmland on the Niger River delta, Chiat/Day posted a message on an Internet bulletin board explaining the plight of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who recently started a hunger strike.

Mr. Crowley said Steve Alburty, head of management information systems at Chiat/Day in New York, has set up an e-mail address for people to send "electronic signatures" to put together a petition for Mr. Saro-Wiwa's release.

"We hope to embarrass the Nigerian government into letting the poor chap out of jail," Mr. Crowley said.

The Body Shop is not mentioned in the e-mail postings.

Jilly Forster, Body Shop's strategic marketing director, described Chiat/Day as an ideal partner "complementing our recently expanded creative service and communication functions with a number of platforms more varied and subtle than just paid-for media."

Body Shop, which has its own in-house communications and creative departments, already plans to test an interactive, in-store CD-ROM with customer information.

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