December 09, 2000

The Internet and interactive activity will continue to play a big role in transforming ad agencies into multi-disciplinary communications consultants in 2001.

A survey among the members of the ICOM (International Communications Agency Network, Inc.) independent agency network found that more than half of the respondents cited Internet and interactivity as the areas that will have the biggest impact on their businesses in the coming year. With $3 billion in billings and 74 agencies in 44 countries, ICOM agencies are a microcosm of the global ad agency industry.

Fully 19 of the more than 30 agencies responding to the survey said the Internet revolution would continue to be key. For some, the focus will be on gearing up; for others, it will be a matter of putting the Internet more into perspective as part of a broad media spectrum.

"In France, interactive will be the fastest growing medium," said Patrick Walhain, president, Dassas Group, Paris, and ICOM European area regional director. His opinion was echoed by ICOM agency members in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan, Austria and Switzerland.

"I expect to see more Internet activity, but its nature will change as it becomes a front-end for a company's database. Instead of focusing primarily on communicating information about a company, the Web site is becoming a place for business to be transacted, said Tom Eppes, president, Price/McNabb, Charlotte, NC.

Anthony Smee, president, Smee's Advertising Ltd., London, said clients are beginning to understand the Internet's good opportunities and also its wasteful parts. "This gives much better clarity on the client's Web strategy as it links into the rest of the business and as advertising communication companies work out strategies for those clients. More effective Web design and e-commerce is going to come out of it," he predicts. "For Europe, the fact that America has been the learning curve/standard setter has helped, and the gap between the U.S. and Europe has become much closer on the Internet."

Another country that is expected to move up on the learning curve is Japan. Shoichi Hoshi, international advisor, Nihon Keizai Advertising Co., Tokyo,predicts that the Japanese government will spend heavily in IT to catch up since Japan is now behind at least 10 other countries.
Other areas that the agencies see as having major impact are continuing integration of services, difficulty of recruitment of qualified personnel and economic slowdowns or political turmoil in certain countries.

Additional information from the survey is available from ICOM. Executives from agencies around the world are available to elaborate. ICOM was founded 50 years ago as the National Federation of Advertising Agencies and became the International Federation of Advertising Agencies, Inc., in 1980. In 1998, it was renamed to reflect its expanded range of capabilities.

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