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New Shop Focuses on 'Communications Products'

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NEW YORK As the ad industry scrambles to build the next Nike+, a new agency sees a chance to specialize in building long-lasting brand platforms -- and take a piece of the action.
 
A half-dozen executives from the London operations of DDB, Naked Communications, Isobar, Tribal DDB and Diageo have joined forced to launch AnalogFolk, a shop that is dedicated to what it is calling "communications products" that meld digital technology with real-world interaction. Unlike regular bits of ad messaging, a communications product is sought out by consumers, even bought, the shop believes.
 
"We need to be thinking of communications as a product rather than something that has finite value that decreases over time," said Matt Dyke, a founding partner and head of planning at DDB London. "You do a Super Bowl ad, then it loses value and eventually peters out."
 
The shop is one of several looking to find new models for the agency business, including Naked, Anomaly and Droga5. Like those shops, AnalogFolk hopes to break out of classification as a digital or traditional agency, blending interactive, events and other areas.
 
The agency has poached executives from a variety of points in the marketing food chain. Matt Hardisty was global creative director at Naked; Bill Brock was managing director at Tribal DDB; Ed Ling was a strategy director at digital media agency i-Level; Dierdre McGlashan was a network director at Isobar; and Leo Moore was a media manager at Diageo.
 
Like other boutiques, AnalogFolk will rely on production shops and others to create programs.
 
As a model, Dyke cites Nike+, the groundbreaking system that connects the iPod with Nike running shoes and layers a social network on top. More than just a campaign, Nike+ is a full-fledged product.
 
Dyke got his own firsthand taste of the possibility for this type of innovation at Tribal DDB, which created Monopoly Live, a real-life re-creation of the board game that used GPS-enabled cabs and mobile. The effort could easily have become a product in its own right, he said.
 
"We had Yahoo! ringing us asking to buy Monopoly Live as a traffic driver," Dyke said. "But being ad agencies they didn't see that opportunity."
 
For that reason, AnalogFolk plans to take an equity stake in many of its projects, sharing in the value of those that take off, he said. It will also create its own products without a client.
 
"We're finding in the conversations we're having people want to share equity with us," Dyke said. "That's the one we're going with the most, taking equity in the ideas."