Everyone knows Chiat/Day is no stranger to new technology.
When the agency introduced Apple Computer's Macintosh a decade ago with the legendary "1984" commercial, it also over one weekend replaced all the agency's typewriters with Macs.
At the beginning of this year, as Chiat prepared to go "virtual," the agency decided it was time to integrate information about the emerging interactive media into all of its core groups, known as Strategic Business Units (SBUs).
The shop assembled a task force of about a dozen people representing all four of the traditional agency disciplines-account management, planning, creative and media-to represent the new-media opportunities in all of the SBUs.
The impetus to create the interactive marketing team came from Chiat's largest client, Nissan Motor Corp. USA. To date, Nissan is Chiat's only client that has undertaken a specific project, but the rest have expressed interest in interactive media, said Dick Hackenberg, who heads up the interactive team in Venice, Calif.
In New York, insiders said, the agency is creating online advertising for Coca-Cola Co.'s new-age beverage, Fruitopia. Nissan has tested low-tech interactive spots with a San Antonio, Texas, cable system and also sponsored an America Online soccer-themed forum.
Chiat's London office, meanwhile, will test interactive commercials with Videoway this fall.
To keep everyone up to speed on the emerging interactive media, the group electronically publishes a weekly newsletter. Clients who are plugged into Chiat's computer system, like Nissan, can call up the newsletter electronically. But the agency's SBUs make printed copies for other interested clients.
The agency also is a client of Next Century Media, a New York consultancy that keeps tabs on the marketing viability of various new media.
"The trick is to try to understand how to invest wisely in a learning process so you're prepared to take full advantage of the media when it's more available and viable and part of the total marketing equation," Mr. Hackenberg said.
While the agency has yet to invest directly in any new medium, its chairman has. Jay Chiat is acquiring a minority interest in Interactive Connection, a fledgling online service.