Agency Profile: Merkley I.D.

Merkley Interactive has a new "I.D." The interactive side of Omnicom's Merkley + Partners unit rebranded itself as Merkley I.D. last month and introduced a new focus on its design work. The change came about, because clients kept asking the New York shop to produce more offline work as a result of its online efforts, according to Brad Kay, executive vice president and general manager.

Merkley's work for Starwood Hotels' Honeymoon Collection brand got the ball rolling last year with a graphically intense Web site to showcase hundreds of Starwood Hotels worldwide. Rather than throw up thumbnail sketches of the properties, the site features iconic imagery of individual rooms and their environs, a design meant to give the viewer an I-want-to-be-there experience.
The Web work led to a client request for new brochures, a new logo design, and a print advertising campaign. Merkley was able to do it all, much to the delight of Starwood Marketing Manager Jennifer Hyman.

"All of our projects link to each other, so even in our print collateral we direct people to our online portal and our concierge services. We needed someone who understood how all those pieces fit together," Hyman says. The shift toward a more full-service approach doesn't mean Merkley I.D. will abandon its interactive design roots, Kay says. "That is something we love and we obviously have a very fertile business there," he says. "But we see a new opportunity to reinforce our level of integration with our clients."

Nor, Kay adds, will Merkley's designers go overboard on geeky graphics. A project for BMW Motorcycles launched with more than 500 pages and nearly that many images. To keep it user-friendly, Merkley's architects divided the site into four main sections.

On the other end of the scale, Merkley developed a very straightforward site for Pfizer's Lipitor cholesterol-lowering drug. Unlike the expansive feel of the Starwood and BMW sites, the pharma venue features a no-nonsense repository of information on how to combat high cholesterol. The goal is to send Web surfers to the doctor's office with a prescription for Lipitor.

What excites Kay about the agency's change in focus is how much new business it has generated from existing clients.

"Clients are demanding more of their agencies," he says. "They don't want to have to hire a brand identity shop and someone else to do environmental design for their retail expansion."

John Duffy, who previously ran his own boutique design firm, joined Merkley in April as design director. Duffy says the early response to the agency's changes leads him to believe there will be plenty of work in the offing. But growth alone, he says, is not the driving factor.

"We are not particularly concerned about getting a lot bigger. Our goal here is to do great work," Duffy says.