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IQ News: Hard Rock Starts Digging For Internet Agency

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By LAURA RICH





Rock n' roll memorabilia restaurant Hard Rock Cafe has kicked off a plan to launch a corporate-wide presence on the Web for the first time.





David Carlock, project manager at Orlando-based Hard Rock, said he and other project executives have met recently with principals of Organic Online, Vivid Studios and other new media shops. The company asked for a 'tutorial' about the Internet and ideas on how each agency would translate the Hard Rock brand into digital form.





Carlock said no official review was under way at this point, but that one may take place later this summer or in the fall.





'We're out there whether we like it or not,' said Carlock, referring to individual Hard Rock sites and Web pages created for Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, a company separate from the theme restaurant chain. 'People search for 'Hard Rock' and they don't ever get us,' noted Carlock. 'And music seems to lend itself well to the Web. That's at the root of this.'





Under a former corporate structure, a Web site for Hard Rock America, parent of 13 restaurants, most of them in the Western U.S., had been created by Box Top Interactive, a Los Angeles-based agency. In 1996, Hard Rock Cafe International acquired Hard Rock America and assumed responsibility for the site.





Carlock said it 'wasn't the right time' to maintain the site and shut it down. 'We had enough on our plate' following the merger, he noted. Box Top is not expected to be involved in the development of a corporate Hard Rock on-line strategy, he added.





One source contacted by Hard Rock said the restaurant chain's executives were most keen on concepts that link Hard Rock to travel information. They also showed interest in using the Web for merchandising purposes, the source said.





Meanwhile, competitor House of Blues has had a Web site live since 1995. Another rival for entertainment fan appetites, Planet Hollywood, announced earlier this year that Tandem Computers and data base vendor Informix were working with Creative Artists Agency to develop a Web site for its movie-themed chain. Sources said Los Angeles-based Digital Evolution is involved in the project, although DE officials would not confirm the relationship. Planet Hollywood officials could not be reached for comment.





Hard Rock Cafe is wholly owned by British leisure and entertainment firm Rank Group PLC. The chain currently has 75 restaurants worldwide, 26 of them in the United States.





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