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Carat Launches Interactive Co.

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Carat Interactive, previously a unit of media agency Carat Freeman, today launches as a separate company within global media network Carat.

"Carat recognizes the growing importance of interactive media," said Carat Interactive president Sarah Fay. The decision to launch the interactive marketing and media services unit stemmed from the desire to differentiate Carat's interactive offerings from its overall business, she said.

However, creating a separate interactive media company bucks a trend, said Nancy Ryan, president and CEO of Pro Media, Natick, Mass. "More companies are realizing that interactive is part of a whole entity," Ryan said. "When you work with a client, you need to look at all of their media dollars, not just online or offline."

Carat Interactive, which is headquartered in Boston, also has full-service offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, as well as smaller satellite outposts in 16 international cities. Carat Interactive's projected billings for 2001 are approximately $100 million, Fay said.

Carat Freeman, Newton, Mass., is a unit of New York-based Carat North America, which in turn is part of the Carat network which claims about $12 billion in global billings. Carat Interactive as a business unit had provided roughly 10 percent of Carat Freeman's $700 million in overall billings.

"We had a great, fairly local shop in Boston with some national clients like AOL," Fay said. "Our vision is to provide a national service with local representation and a more extensive set of services."

Fay is not concerned about a recent downturn in the interactive space, "because we are servicing traditional clients, and because most Carat clients are traditional or are more substantial clients dedicated to TV and online and are looking for an integrated strategy," she said. "That puts us in a very good position."

Carat Interactive has an added advantage because it is not trying to replace lost income from failed dot-coms, Fay added.

In addition to "typical" media buying, planning, tracking and optimization, Carat Interactive will offer services such as performance marketing, affiliate programs and electronic customer relationship management services, Fay said.

The company is launching with clients such as Xerox, Pfizer, Radio Shack and Hewlett-Packard and has 150 employees worldwide. No time frame has been announced for naming managing directors for each of the company's offices.