CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: NEW-MEDIA CLINIC - Selling up - or selling out? Online pioneers look to the inevitable

Pioneers, as someone observed to me recently, tend to end up with arrows in their chests. This is true, but others who survive tend to end up with big chunks of land that translate into big chunks of wealth.

Pioneers, as someone observed to me recently, tend to end up with

arrows in their chests. This is true, but others who survive tend to end

up with big chunks of land that translate into big chunks of wealth.



And so it is with many of the new-media specialists who helped usher in

a new industry three or four years ago and have since managed to avoid

biting the dust.



Of course, individuals tend to get overtaken by big corporations in the

end and every good pioneer will, at some point, be faced with the same

dilemma: to sell or not to sell? The latest to realise its capital is

Sunbather, the web designer behind the Radio 1, HMV and Spice Girls’

Spice Station sites, which sold out to CHBi Razorfish last week.



Such has been the rush to sell up this year that those UK web

specialists which remain independent could be forgiven for thinking time

is running out on them.



On the other hand, some, inevitably, will think of it not as selling up,

but as selling out, and will resist. In the traditions of the Wild West,

such idealists tended to die slower and more horrible deaths than their

arrow-strewn forefathers.



Likewise, new-media specialists who believe they can continue to thrive

in their niche, offering an independent, full-service digital

proposition to clients well into the next decade are doomed. Let’s face

it, as soon as ad agencies and direct marketing agencies begin to see a

profit in digital, they will muscle in - as some are already doing - and

their clients will almost certainly welcome the move.



This follows not only because their relationships tend to be stronger,

but also because, increasingly, clients see integration as the key to

their future communications and it is easier to integrate across one

company than a variety of specialists.



But if selling is an imperative, this does not mean that the time is yet

right. Nor is there only one type of suitor. After all, how on earth do

you think those ad and DM agencies will manage to muscle in? They - and

not just their holding companies - will be looking to buy digital

partners soon. Some are already looking. For my money, they are the most

natural home of all.



For the likes of Sunbather and CHBi, selling to a big US online agency

like Razorfish makes sense - in the medium term. It gives them the extra

finance and the international links necessary to grow their

business.



In the long term, however, it means they remain a niche player - albeit

a bigger and better resourced one. The only way they can break out of

that niche and ensure their survival is either via another sale - to an

agency - or by branching out into offline communication and taking the

ad agencies on at their own game. This would be a bold move befitting

the pioneering spirit. But it might leave them lying face down in the

dirt with only a chestful of arrows for company.



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).