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Ad agencies looking to bolster their interactive media efforts are continuing to reach outside the industry's homegrown ranks for guidance.

Ketchum Communications formalized its Ketchum Interactive Group late last week with the appointment of Barry Layne to the new post of VP-director of the Los Angeles-based unit. Mr. Layne, 34, has been New York bureau chief of Hollywood Reporter since 1990.

And Leo Burnett USA last week formed an exclusive alliance with Giant Step Productions, a digital software company founded by brothers Adam and Eric Heneghan in 1990.

Adam, 24, and Eric, 26, have moved into Burnett offices in Chicago to serve as full-time consultants to the agency for at least the next year.

What's interesting about the moves is that both Burnett and Ketchum had already formed interactive units but felt the need to pull in additional help from outside.

"My background-not from the agency business, not from the interactive world per se-brings an interesting perspective," Mr. Layne said. "The people who've been able to develop a certain amount of expertise in this business are not traditionally in the agency business."

He attributed that to the fact that interactive media "is not commissionable media. It's hard to put your foot in an area that doesn't make economic sense, so it's hard to grow that [expertise] in-house."

Lynn Upshaw, who remains exec VP-chief operating officer, Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco, will oversee the interactive group as managing director.

"Interactive will be the future for a lot of our disciplines," Mr. Upshaw said, adding that Mr. Layne will use his contacts with interactive hardware and software companies to build alliances with Ketchum clients. Ketchum expects to announce a number of new-media alliances in the coming weeks.

At Burnett, the Heneghan brothers will work closely with the creative department to develop interactive content.

"We wanted to learn about the capabilities of what can be done," said Rob Nolan, corporate vice chairman-director of creative services. "We had some people who were dabbling in it. It helps us move up the learning curve."

Adam Heneghan said he and his brother see ad agencies becoming increasingly involved with cutting-edge uses of interactive technology. They look to the Burnett agreement as an opportunity to get in early.

"We are coming from an industry that is still cottage with mom and pop operations," he said. "Where clients are now getting help from small shops, larger agencies are going to start taking over."

Still uncertain is how big the market is for interactive and whether the actual programming work will be done at Burnett.

"That is what we are here to assess. There are some real projects that can be done today," Adam Heneghan said. "We want to put our expertise with theirs to sell products."

The brothers signed only a one-year contract to keep their long-term options open, he said.

"We were not at all sure on where technology was going and wanted to take a year at a time to see how industry changes. We wanted to leave it open because the industry is changing so quickly."

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