V&B spawns new interactive arm

There's little doubt that most Canadian companies - constantly bombarded by new and emerging Internet technologies and solutions - have by now set up a Web presence, or at least entertained the thought. ...

There’s little doubt that most Canadian companies – constantly bombarded by new and emerging Internet technologies and solutions – have by now set up a Web presence, or at least entertained the thought.

It’s what to do with that Web site and how to use it as a marketing or sales channel that leaves many company executives scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Those reservations are precisely what the latest kid on the interactive agency block is hoping to quell.

Wideframe, the newest division of Vickers & Benson Arnold, is aiming to help organizations build profitable customer relationships by providing customer-oriented consulting, Internet strategy and development, as well as analytics (measuring online results), says Wideframe president Michael Shostak.

‘The one thing that clients were continually telling us is that they wanted more strategy – beyond creating a Web site, for example,’ he says. ‘We want to come in and try to understand what marketing problems you’re facing specifically in terms of customer relationship management. What kind of customer relationships you have. What are the economics of those relationships – lifetime value, etc? How do we measure that? And how then do we use the Internet as a channel to strengthen or streamline those relationships?’

The majority of Wideframe’s staff, he explains, moved over from the Internet development group within V&B’s interactive division, Vickers & Benson Direct + Interactive (VBDI).

‘VBDI’s original mandate was to be this next-generation response media company – direct media both on- and offline – and as VBDI grew, we got into a level of Internet development beyond just response marketing. We were developing actual Internet sites and starting to help clients with Internet strategies. That was not part of VBDI’s original mandate, but it was becoming a healthy part of the business,’ says Shostak.

The new Toronto-based agency, which has also retained former Environics vice-president of research Peter Hodgson as director of customer insight, will now focus on those areas of Internet development and strategy, leaving VBDI to handle all areas of ‘next-generation response media,’ including online marketing, e-mail marketing, online advertising and direct marketing, says Shostak.

While Wideframe has inherited the client relationships it had as the Internet development group within VBDI, including Bank of Montreal, Sprint Canada and Purina, he says, it is also seeking to serve non-VBDI, or non-agency, clients.

As for its competition, Shostak believes the new agency falls somewhere between an interactive shop and a marketing consultancy.

‘Hopefully, we’re trying to carve our own niche in this area.’