Euro RSCG Readies Yahoo-Collaborated Company Portal

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Euro RSCG Worldwide, the fifth-largest advertising agency worldwide, soon will launch an Internet-based employee portal to better integrate communication among its 10,000 staffers in 233 offices across 75 countries.


Called My Euro RSCG, the global portal in collaboration with Yahoo Inc. combines agency content with outside news. Debuting Jan. 15, it will replace an existing portal and, by the end of 2003, the 50-odd intranets managed by Euro RSCG offices worldwide.


"We found that we needed to create an intranet of intranets," said Bob Schmetterer, New York-based chairman/CEO of Euro RSCG.


The portal is among initiatives to project Euro RSCG as an integrated global agency. Schmetterer in May consolidated its 11 agencies in the United States into two brands -- Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners and Euro RSCG Tatham Partners. In France several Euro RSCG shops were consolidated and plans are on for Britain.


Available at my.eurorscg.com, the portal is based on the My Yahoo interface, with predefined templates to fit Euro RSCG's needs. Customized by Euro RSCG Interaction, it aims to simplify and quicken global communication as well as engender loyalty and stickiness, or more repeat visits, from employees.


There are five disciplines: marketing services, healthcare, corporate communications, interactive and new business. The healthcare area, for example, will have pages relevant to work for clients in that area across agency offices worldwide. It will list industry news from articles carried on Yahoo, plus news of campaigns under development, case studies and the like.


Major disciplines were limited to five for a reason.


"They do encompass all of the specialized agency services that fall under the group," Schmetterer said. "They have been so for the last five years."


Apart from the main disciplines, 100 communities are designed around categories like clients, expertise and network. Employees have to join the communities to participate.


Another highlight is the ability to search the Euro RSCG database for offices, people, brands and clients. A new global directory can create office-specific listings, eliminating the need for maintaining separate databases.


One attractive aspect of My Euro RSCG is the search function on the Yahoo platform. The Inktomi search engine will find content on any current or previous home page, offices, executives and local and global agency clients. Search results will pull up relevant documents, too. For example, typing in "consumer electronics" will bring up employees who list that subject as their area of expertise, offices working on advertisers in that category, case studies and related documents.


The Yahoo relationship is key to encouraging users to return. My Euro RSCG can be tailored to accommodate Yahoo news, content and favorite Web links. Other options were considered, but Yahoo won based on employee feedback and user surveys.


Euro RSCG will pay Yahoo an initial license fee based on the cost per user, plus an annual content syndication fee of $8 per employee.


Another attraction of Yahoo was the multiple languages across its network.


"For me, that was almost the overriding factor," Schmetterer said. "Yahoo is available in 14 languages and can stream content in those languages," which will be useful when Euro RSCG soon streams creative over its portal.


It also helps that Yahoo is a client of Black Rocket Euro RSCG, San Francisco.


The centrally managed portal will be refreshed daily. Using Interwoven technology, discipline leaders will be responsible for adding and updating content, reporting to Annette Stover, international director of marketing at Euro RSCG headquarters in New York.


Employees access the portal by typing in their e-mail address as a username and a password they create. In another layer of security, they must create a separate ID to access community pages. Euro RSCG is using Netegrity's SiteMinder technology for this.


In phase two, the agency will add a concept called Awareness. An instant-messenger application will indicate via a smiley face which Euro RSCG executive is on the intranet. This lets executives communicate instantly.


Yahoo's instant-messenger program is being considered. So is Lotus, a program now used by Euro RSCG offices worldwide. Instant messenger again will shrink the boundaries.


"Hopefully, this will become the launch point for people's work," said Richard Schroader, chief technology officer of Euro RSCG who is spearheading this intranet effort.


Employees are expected to welcome the portal. The old one attracts 1,000 unique visitors a week. The hours spent are not known, but the portal gets 30,000 hits a day.


The portal may be a generation ahead of agency rivals, except Ogilvy & Mather, largely because of its IBM Corp. client. Companies in the same league as IBM, like General Electric Co. and Ford Motor Co., already have elaborate intranets.


But Euro RSCG does not have the same problems as its peers. It is the youngest shop among the top 10 agency brands worldwide, so it does not have to worry about dismantling entrenched legacy systems.


"We continue to look at technology as being crucial for us and invest in it and even invest in it in such difficult times," Schmetterer said.


The risks of not injecting new technology are huge, he said. For one, not integrating offices on the same Web-based platform denies employees in remote reaches the same knowledge as their counterparts in centers like New York. Then there is human resources. Ad agencies are not as successful as marketers in attracting key talent, fresh from grad school or seasoned executives, for several reasons, including pay and job challenges.


"The biggest risk for agencies who don't involve their employees on a large scale is the risk of losing their people over time to other businesses," Schmetterer said.


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