Grey Continues I-Shop Rollup

The consolidation in the i-shop space continued Monday, as ad giant Grey Global Group rolled its subsidiary Elemental Interactive into its New York-based public relations agency GCI Group.

The Atlanta-based Elemental Interactive, which specializes in online corporate and financial communications (some of its latest work included the online-only version of Ameritrade’s annual report) will fall under the GCI org chart as “GCI Interactive.”

Former Elemental Interactive chief executive James Harris, who co-founded the firm in 1994, is charged with leading the new unit and developing specific practice areas. So far, GCI Interactive’s chief division, Elemental Interactive, is slated to focus specifically on investor relations.

Like other agency holding companies Omnicom, Interpublic and True North, Grey has seen its interactive investments rattled by an unfriendly market and sluggish spending on interactive projects. Several weeks ago, Grey made another interactive shop restructuring, placing Web shop Beyond Interactive under its MediaCom media-buying unit.

At the time, spokespeople from Grey were reluctant to describe the restructuring of its relationship with Beyond, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based full-service online agency that it has owned since 1999, as a way to reign in an underperforming unit.

Instead, executives described the change as a convenient way to package several of Grey’s similarly positioned units into one unit, and nothing more — despite the fact that Beyond (which had earlier had a habit of touting the “laissez faire” attitude of its parent) was relegated to answering to MediaCom executives.

Elemental Interactive’s Harris, likewise, called Monday’s move “a strong endorsement of our technology eminence and strategic expertise in interactive and financial communications,” despite its new position as a GCI unit.

GCI previously had a partnership with Beyond Interactive as well as Grey Interactive; spokespeople from GCI and Grey did not return calls for comment by press time, though it seems likely that portions of those relationships will be trimmed in favor of GCI’s new in-house interactive services provider.

“GCI Group has been providing interactive public relations services to its clients since 1994 through strategic partnerships with Web development companies, however, we can now offer a world-class interactive capability in-house which adds instant depth to all of our practices,” said CGI chief executive Bob Feldman.

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