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Interactive marketing isn't quite the apple of Leo Burnett Co.'s eye, but the agency has made a commitment to staying ahead of its peers.

"It's a priority for Burnett because we think it's our future-both in terms of how we communicate on a business level and additionally as a way to communicate with consumers," said Jayne Spittler, VP-director of media research for Chicago-based Burnett. "While we don't think the existing communication forms will go away, the development of interactive will transform those existing things."

Earlier this year, Burnett created a six-person interactive marketing group.

In addition, Burnett in June announced an alliance with Giant Step Productions, a company that specializes in applications for all forms of digital interactive hardware. The twentysomething brothers who own the company, Adam and Eric Heneghan, now are on board as full-time consultants, "but also as catalysts for interactive projects, in hopes of pollinating the creative group," Ms. Spittler said.

The Chicago office's interactive specialists exchange information and ideas with a new-media group in Burnett's London office. And two Toronto office clients are investigating the UBI interactive TV test scheduled to start next year in northern Quebec.

Burnett also is trying "to take an informed and proactive stance on being sure that all commercial speech protections that exist in media find their way into these new technologies," Ms. Spittler said. Senior VP-Associate General Counsel Carla Michelotti heads those efforts, which include monitoring legislation and potential regulation and meeting with policymakers.

"The way we're trying to think about this is that interactive should not just be out there by itself," Ms. Spittler said. "We want to help our clients recognize that if they want to move into the interactive arena, it should be integrated with everything else they're doing."

Burnett will acknowledge only two interactive projects: Oldsmobile's ads on Prodigy and McDonald's Corp.'s ground-breaking ad with NBC and America Online.

Other projects in development or negotiation are believed to include Procter & Gamble Co., Sony Corp. and Nintendo of America.

Burnett's interactive work has quickly become part of the mainstream advertising effort, Ms. Spittler said.

"Four or five months ago our group could meet and easily tick off what we were doing; now interactive is more pervasive in Burnett business."

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