- The UK's largest new-media planning and buying specialist launches today, with a claimed 10 per cent share of the online advertising market.
I-level will be run by Charlie Dobres, the former head of Lowe Digital and general secretary of the Internet Advertising Bureau, Andrew Walmsley, who has quit as head of digital media at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and Craig Wilkie, one of the co-founders of the Guardian New Media Lab. It claims £4 million of billings at launch, drawn from four direct relationships with clients, including Easyjet, and from tie-ups with two traditional media agencies.
According to Dobres, who has resigned from his post at the IAB to concentrate on running i-level, "there hasn't been a media independent launched since Zenith with this market share."
However, i-level will aim to use its volume to buy more cleverly, as well as more efficiently, than its competitors, according to Walmsley. "Our volume will mean we are active in the marketplace all the time, giving us a broad level of experience and knowledge that cannot be matched by part-timers."
The idea is for the new company to perform a similar function to poster buying specialists -- operating on behalf of big media shops in a complex and low-margin area. Media agencies will retain control of strategic planning, leaving i-level to carry out the implementational planning and buying.
Dobres is adamant that the time is now right for specialists to emerge. "There is so much opportunity in the market but also massive frustration among advertisers that they are not making the most of that opportunity."
Dobres, who takes the title of chief executive, and Walmsley, the chairman, will run the company and take charge of new business while Wilkie operates as creative director, overseeing teams made up of planner/buyers and "fixers" -- whose job it will be to optimise performance during a campaign. The pairs will also thrash out strategic ideas together, working in the same way as creative teams do in ad agencies. By early May, the company will have eight staff.
I-level will also enhance its strategic credentials by buying against at least two additional metrics on top of the accepted models of page impressions and click-throughs. There will be a return on investment measurement and an alternative site evaluation system, both of which are under wraps for competitive reasons.
The new company is backed by an anonymous, private investor.