own shoes, they created a consignment shop on their Website where the company sells the shoes for interested customers. By listening to clients and responding to them quickly, the partners have been able to provide valuable services while improving their company’s efficiency. What started out as a childhood hobby has turned into a full-service business that provides not just hard-to-find kicks but also valuable services to clients worldwide.
A HARD SELL?
How do you sell your customers on the benefits of Web technology? You try it yourself first. That’s what Chicago-based Burrell Communications Group L.L.C. did. One of the nation’s largest black-owned advertising agencies (No. 3 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $190 million in billings), Burrell has taken technological development seriously. On any given day, the corporate office is full of staffers jumping to the rings, beeps, and not-so-subtle vibrations of cell phones and two-way pagers, while others are toting laptops or intently poking away at handheld computers.
However, until fairly recently, if a Burrell staffer was on the road and needed to access files on the office network, he or she would have needed to link to the office with a bulky notebook PC loaded with specific software. But things have changed. Burrell recently rolled out new Web services that let employees access the office network, retrieve e-mail, and perform other office functions from any Web-connected device—be it a Web-enabled cell phone, a handheld computer, or a PC at a hotel business center or Internet cafÃ©. And the company has stepped up to videoconferencing using WebEx (www.webex.com), an online conferencing tool, rather than relying on sit-down meetings that would be a nightmare to schedule.
Kelly Williams, vice president of engagement mar
keting, says this comfort with technology translates into how Burrell deals with its clients; they can sell technology effectively because they’ve already embraced it. She says clients who come to Burrell with narrow visions of traditional print or broadcast advertising may be cheating themselves out of a cost-effective medium: “When you’re talking about working with technology, there are so many ways that you can do it. The sky’s the limit.”
These days, for Burrell, the question is not if they should incorporate interactive elements into their clients’ campaigns, but how many. “We first look to see whether [the client’s] message is expandable online,” says Kamau Akabueze, group director, engagement marketing. “For example, do they want to advertise, collect data, or have folks enter a sweepstakes? After we know that, then we can decide how to implement [a strategy for them].”
For the past year, Burrell has been convincing clients, such as Crest, Cheerios, McDonald’s, and Verizon, to use the Web to enhance their print, broadcast, and promotional ad campaigns. “[We’ve always used] some component of the Web, even if it was just a Website address,” says Akabueze. More recently, the agency has been launching what Akabueze calls “micro-sites”—small Websites within the client’s site geared toward a particular promotion or campaign. Another online technology the agency has been experimenting with is eyeblasters—motion-graphics technology