When marketing veterans Andrew Keyes and Andrew Davies co-founded their Toronto-based interactive agency Armantus in 1997, they had astutely positioned themselves as a hybrid of old and new media expertise, bringing their clients the best of both worlds. ...

When marketing veterans Andrew Keyes and Andrew Davies co-founded their Toronto-based interactive agency Armantus in 1997, they had astutely positioned themselves as a hybrid of old and new media expertise, bringing their clients the best of both worlds.

Three years later, their savvy combination of new world technology and old fashioned business principles has earned a large industry reputation that

far exceeds their modest size. Named by as one of the top 100 international interactive agencies over the last two years, Armantus is delivering impressive results in web design and development, interactive media, and on-line advertising. And in the process, they have vindicated their original, core philosophy: even in the brave new world of techie-driven dot coms, traditional marketing smarts remains king.

Together, Keyes and Davies bring years of experience in ad agency marketing and corporate communications, while Mike Chornopesky, director of on-line media, has a 20 year background in agency media planning. In addition, Keyes is co-founder of AIMS, the Association of Internet Marketing and Sales, a 2,000-plus member organization created to nurture synergy and enhance expertise among new media professionals.

With their concentration of collective expertise, Armantus has landed many of Canada’s leading corporations as clients, including Sympatico-Lycos, Cebra Inc. (a division of Bank of Montreal), the Ontario Government, Solect Technology, and lncentivecity.

Grocery Gateway, an Internet enterprise that has revolutionized the way people purchase groceries, chose Armantus because of the company’s adherence to old-fashioned marketing disciplines.

‘They’re very balanced in their approach,’ observes Stephen Tallevi, Grocery Gateway’s Director of Interface and Content. ‘They didn’t start with the technology. Rather, they focused on understanding our needs, our industry and most importantly, the needs of our customers. Only then did they use technology to address problems, build our brand and make visiting our site and ordering groceries on-line an easier and more enjoyable experience.’

Armantus initially re-designed Grocery Gateway’s site as a shopping experience, stressing merchandising and increasing orders, then subsequently began helping with their online marketing.

‘Clients appreciate how we can take their benchmark cost-per-sale numbers and demonstrate that they can improve them on-line and generate substantial ROI’ says Chornopesky. ‘We apply a strategic and responsible approach to assessing the potential for on-line advertising. On-line advertising is not for everyone, but it does offer an extremely targeted, measurable, and cost-effective way of building lifetime customer value. It’s comparable to traditional direct response rates but with much lower costs than print or TV.’

Chornopesky regards ‘Internet marketing’ as a better term than ‘on-line advertising’: ‘Banner ads account for only about 50% of on-line advertising — there’s also sponsorships, rich media, e-mail advertising, and so on, which together offer a huge opportunity within the medium, going a long way to help secure a client’s long term customer base. We see banner ads as just the start of the process — not just selling on-line, but marketing on-line.’, a database-driven portal for buyers, sellers and users of premiums and incentives, has used Armantus for both on-line and off-line marketing initiatives.

‘They successfully revamped our e-marketplace portal, making it more user friendly and impactful upon entry’ says Stevi Hanson, executive vice-president of Incentivecity. ‘They communicated with us very clearly at every stage of the process, reacting quickly to change. They were able to tap into our minds far better than any other supplier. We didn’t have to waste time hand-holding or educating them about our business. Because of their strategic thinking and technological expertise, we saved a lot of time and money.’

For a recent trade show in Chicago, Hanson suddenly received more display space than she anticipated, so she needed a slew of promotional banners and support in a rush. Working within a short window, Hanson says Armantus over-delivered on her expectations.

‘What differentiates us from our competitors is our relative maturity and experience that goes beyond on-line advertising’ says Davies. ‘We know all about servicing clients and meeting deadlines. And our creative is top notch. The look and feel of our products, their strong graphic and design flair, more than hold their own in the marketplace.’

Today, Armantus paradoxically finds itself challenged by its own success. ‘We want to continue to grow but also maintain the high quality of our relationships with our existing clients’ says Keyes. ‘We’re wrestling with how many more people we need to bring in and how selective we’ll be about our clients. We’re very hands on, doing the work ourselves, and we want to continue working that way.’

Not only does Armantus find itself occasionally turning away some big name clients, but they also receive calls from traditional agencies covertly picking their brains about on-line marketing.

‘That can be a bit touchy because most agencies want their clients to believe they can deliver the goods on-line’ notes Keyes. ‘Other agencies are reluctant to include interactive work in their strategic planning, which I don’t think serves their clients’ needs well. Maybe the agencies don’t legitimately see a role for interactive, but when you’re dealing with clients, especially dot com companies, you’ve got to give it consideration.’

This is where Armantus’ competitive advantage clearly shines through.

‘Our traditional media experience is serving us well as we embrace the on-line world’ says Chornopesky. ‘If a client ever asks for advice on their traditional advertising plans, we’re in a good position to give them that perspective, unlike most traditional agencies, who still can’t advise confidently on on-line initiatives.’

Ultimately, Armantus is staking its future on their conviction that the integration of all marketing communications will converge on the net: ‘For every off-line activity in marketing communications, there is a counterpart on the internet – advertising, direct marketing, public relations, promotion, customer service, etc. Now, for the first time, it’s all in one place’ says Chornopesky. ‘That doesn’t mean the internet will replace all those disciplines in the real world, but they can serve as a focal point for restructuring all those activities in a more integrated fashion.’

‘We’ve been passionate about the Internet since the early 1990s,’ adds Keyes. ‘Over the ensuing years, we’ve only become more and more convinced that the future of marketing and the Internet are inextricably entwined. We believe it’s only a matter of time until the medium proves itself the dominant force in marketing communications.’

Also in this sponsored supplement:

- Overview p.E1

- Armantus p.E2

- Modem Media p.E4

- Vickers & Benson Direct + Interactive p.E5

- MacLaren McCann Interactive p.E6

- MarchFIRST p.E8

- Digital@JWT p.E9

- p.E10

- Devlin Applied Design p.E12