INTERACTIVE: BEHIND THE HYPE/NEW-MEDIA ALLIANCES: Why the Digital Marketing Group is considered to be a threat - New-media shops believe the DMG is yet another way for agencies to steal their thunder

By RICHARD COOK, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 27 June 1997 12:00AM

You remember how it was at childhood birthday parties. There you were quite happily playing with all your new toys and showing off in front of your friends. Then your big brother, the same guy who had said he was too important ever to bother with you or your party, shows up with all his bigger mates and proceeds to monopolise all the games.

You remember how it was at childhood birthday parties. There you

were quite happily playing with all your new toys and showing off in

front of your friends. Then your big brother, the same guy who had said

he was too important ever to bother with you or your party, shows up

with all his bigger mates and proceeds to monopolise all the games.



It was bad enough then. It’s far worse now - when the bullies are the ad

agencies and their victims the small, dynamic new-media specialists.

Agencies, slow to wake up to the potential of new media, are now

attempting to make up lost ground by using their size to squeeze smaller

players out of the market. At least that is one of the ways the

new-media future is shaping up. And it’s a view that the formation of

the Digital Marketing Group has done nothing to alter.



The DMG is a new alliance of about 20 of the biggest ad agencies and

media buying points. Its members organise pounds 3 billion of media

every year, and it manages to guard that exclusivity fiercely. It is, in

short, a pretty exclusive club. Small players, independents, even

dedicated new-media operations simply need not apply.



Mark Dickinson, the managing director of the interactive communications

company, Indexfinger, says: ’It’s difficult to understand why the

agencies need to be in a different organisation of their own when there

is already a wider group, the Digital Alliance, which has agencies like

Ogilvy and Mather at its helm. After all, agencies are notoriously

competitive, and if they’re not going to share any information of real

value, what’s the point of it?’



The point of it, according to the DMG chairman, Andrew Walmsley, is

quite straightforward, and it’s emphatically not a question of agencies

belatedly waking up to the potential of the new-media market and then

quickly taking over the very party they have gatecrashed.



’We want to raise the level of debate about new media and consider the

implications for marketing. So far, the debate has been far too obsessed

with technology,’ he says. ’We also want to be out there and

representing the interests of the agency community.’



So far that has entailed organising a seminar for 400 clients and agency

delegates about new-media marketing. Earlier this month the group raised

the stakes still further by constituting a working party to help

establish an agreed trading currency for the Internet.



The group’s focus will continue to be concentrated very much on areas

like this, on trying to agree on ways to market the technology already

available, rather than expressing views of any possible new-media

future.



It is pragmatic rather than intuitive, which may well be, as Walmsley

insists, what clients are increasingly sure that they want. Outsiders

are nonetheless puzzled as to why agencies need their own discrete

group.



The Bates Interactive chairman, Mike Crossman, says: ’We have a

particular view about the new-media future and an idea of the role we,

as agencies, want to play within it, and that’s why we’ve gone with the

DMG. We certainly aren’t saying no-one else can talk to clients or that

we are muscling in on the specialists’ business, but there is a

perception in this business that the really creative stuff is only

coming out of hotshops and that just isn’t so. The big agency groups

have been devoted to new media and producing good work for years. We

just haven’t been very good at telling people about it until now.’



There is undoubtedly a massive need for some sort of co-ordinated

industry initiative. To date, the growth of new media as a marketing

vehicle has lagged considerably behind the growth of new media as a

whole. Worse, new media is an industry which, in a single month, has

managed to produce two major pieces of research that appear to

contradict each other. Work published last month from the Henley Centre

on the one hand, and O&M, Millward Brown and the Telegraph on the other,

reached wildly differing conclusions about the merits or otherwise of

banner advertising on the Internet.



’We do need to share knowledge among ourselves and try to cut through

some of the different formats and arrive at a standardisation of

research. That’s the message we’re all getting from clients,’ Alan

McCulloch, the business development director at Saatchi and Saatchi

Vision, says.



How successful the DMG will be in this quest should become apparent

quite quickly. By setting up its first working party to establish a

coherent buying currency, it can hardly be accused of ducking a

challenge. The various rival measurement schemes don’t seem to lend

themselves easily to consolidation. But it’s the sort of initiative that

the group needs to push through if it is ultimately to convince

lingering doubters of the efficacy of its role.



’The problem with these sorts of new-media alliances is that, while they

claim to be promoting the growth of new media, what they are actually

doing is promoting the growth of their members,’ the SMI chairman, Alex

Letts, says. ’But there’s nothing wrong with that, providing everyone is

aware that they are marketing vehicles for the companies involved.



And they can produce some useful research. After all, it’s in everyone’s

interest that as much information as possible continues to be made

available.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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