Universal McCann Hitches Online and Emerging Media Groups

In yet another agency response to rapid media convergence, Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann (UM) has collapsed its online and emerging media operations into a single unit.

The move is less of a re-organization and more of a “formalization of our go-to-market strategy,” explained David Cohen, newly-named U.S. director of digital communications who will head up the U.S. division. Cohen, who will report to UM U.S. president Mary Gerzema, formerly served as SVP of New York’s UM Interactive. He will be responsible for integration of all new and emerging media such as broadband, wireless, VOD and gaming.

Cohen said the main goal of the structural change will allow the firm to extend learning and best practices across Universal McCann’s global network. The agency’s European operation has undergone a similar alteration, as will its Asia division.

Cohen noted that incremental steps like the combination of its online and emerging media units ultimately will lead towards full integration of all media, digital and traditional. Yet, the industry is not quite ready for a complete media merger, he opined. “We’re in the process of transition as an industry, so there’s still…a need for a specialist group to handle digital media,” he suggested, referring to the need for best practices and standards to be established more fully. “It’s a matter of maturity.”

UM’s clients’ increased interest in new interactive media opportunities beyond the online realm helped spur the re-organization. “We’re finding more and more that clients are setting aside a test-and-learn budget,” commented Cohen. “It’s pretty much de rigeur for 2006.” The agency’s clients include Intel, Microsoft, Verizon Wireless, and Sony, which renewed its North American media buying and planning agreement with UM in January.

The combined online and emerging media division will maintain the Universal McCann Interactive name, but, added Cohen, “We’re not necessarily married to it.”

Cohen expects more re-organization announcements to follow in relation to search marketing and other digital marketing platforms.

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