Agency Profile: Beyond Interactive

Born during the dawn of the Internet era as a small independent shop, Beyond Interactive has officially become a global powerhouse for interactive planning and buying. How did they do it? In large part, thanks to mergers and acquisitions.

Beyond Interactive's April 2002 merger with Grey eMedia is just the latest consolidation move of parent MediaCom, a partner company of Grey Global Group. In the past year, Beyond Interactive has absorbed MediaCom Digital and, two other MediaCom interactive entities. With all the companies under one roof, BI is now slated to place $350 million in digital advertising in 24 countries around the globe and $200 million in the United States alone, making it one of the top three interactive agencies in the country.

"We are truly a global company," says Harvey Goldhersz, the firm’s chairman and CEO. "Although I work in New York, I don't consider Beyond Interactive headquartered in New York. I am in daily contact with our San Francisco and Ann Arbor offices, and speak to our Europe and Asia offices several times a week. It is one of the key reasons clients turn to us. With our closely integrated offices, we provide oversight of digital and cross-media buys and data management analysis, and track ROI globally. We don't just look at the ROI of a specific website, but we can evaluate a client's ROI against different countries or regions around the world."

Being a global agency has allowed BI to experiment with new technologies that U.S.-based agencies could not. "We are doing some innovative wireless campaigns for Nokia out of our Japan and Europe offices, which is something we couldn't duplicate in the U.S. right now," says Goldhersz. "This experience will really position us for when wireless is bigger in the U.S." According to Goldhersz, it is this ability to plan on a global scale that has led to BI’s double-digit growth the last two years. Goldhersz, who is responsible for BI’s overall strategic direction, is one of the driving forces behind the agency’s worldwide growth. He was previously president of MediaCom Digital and led its rapid expansion in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Prior to founding MediaCom Digital, Goldhersz served as senior vice president, strategic planning, at MediaCom and oversaw a multibillion-dollar media portfolio on behalf of Kraft, Procter & Gamble, 3M, Canon, American Home Products, Novartis, and Panasonic.

Being a high-volume buyer of media alone, however, isn’t what makes Beyond Interactive successful, according to Goldhersz. "We use our experience and buying clout to gain data on the marketplace because data leads to knowledge and knowledge to sales for our clients." Data capture, through effectiveness measurement, econometric modeling, and campaign measurement, is a core service that Beyond Interactive provides and also helps to fuel their proprietary Web-based program, Agency Lifeline. This a tool for BI's planners to access a comprehensive database of historical rates and site performance compiled over five years of global advertising. Additionally, the Agency Lifeline provides clients with 24/7 access to approve creative, view media plans, check campaign performance, and review advertising expenditure reports.

Although BI is very numbers-oriented, it likes to consider every customer a relationship that needs to be cultivated. The agency has a consumer-centric marketing process called the Digital Consumer Cycle that, in theory, moves a consumer from brand neutrality to brand advocacy. Every service is focused on moving consumers through this process as effectively and efficiently as possible. "We believe the value BI brings is being able to turn consumers from brand agnostic to brand advocates. Our goal is to have consumers use our client's products for 100% of their brand requirements and recommend these products to friends and family," says Goldhersz. "The cycle is also a tool for us to use when something is not going well. We can look at the steps along the cycle to see where the breakdown is and course-correct."

A recent example is a media campaign for Reebok. The client was seeking to drive young, urban-inspired male shoppers into retail stores for the new Rbk collection of sneakers. To do this, Reebok developed the Unsigned Hype Freestyle Contest. The contest provided young, up-and-coming rappers with the opportunity to submit a demo of their "freestyle raps" to Reebok through its retail partners. Online media was deployed to drive target consumers to the Freestyle area of the website.

BI's research showed that response rates improve significantly when the target audience is exposed to both offline and online media. Finding the largest percentage of previously exposed users to be on, the website of Black Entertainment Television, BI negotiated a placement deal with The agency’s strategy was to completely surround the audience with high-impact Reebok Freestyle ads as they surfed through the relevant content areas of the site, including music channels as well as the site’s Artist category channels, which are often used to research hip-hop and R&B artists.

This targeted campaign increased traffic to Reebok's Freestyle web pages by more than 800% and contributed to a strong promotional response.

Today, BI’s client list includes Procter & Gamble, Oracle, DoubleClick, GM Family First, GlaxoSmithKline, Hasbro, MARS Incorporated, Pharmacia, Sylvan Learning Centers,, and Warner Bros. BI's services include online media planning and buying, interactive creative development, and relationship marketing. The parents help out as well: BI still works closely with MediaCom, which shares about half its client list, to synchronize integrated media planning, event marketing, and public relations.

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