Faith, hope and Clarity

Online business development consultancy Clarity has completed the Carphone Warehouse website. Clare Dowdy charts the group’s rise and looks at its positioning for long-term growth

The business of multimedia has greatly evolved in its short life. It is no longer about sticking a website up as a form of brand extension, but using the technology to offer a broader range of services and build a client’s business.

It is at this end of things that Clarity sees itself, where budgets can stretch into hundreds of thousands of pounds. “We are looking to work for clients for whom new media has a major impact on the way they do business,” says managing director Andrew Skates.

This approach is epitomised by Clarity’s work for Carphone Warehouse, the group’s biggest website project to date, and one which is “well beyond the capabilities of smaller groups”, according to Skates. Choosing a mobile phone is a complex task and the website, which runs into more than 100 pages, aims to simplify the process, while recreating the retail experience.

“It’s about trying to capture what they do in their shops,” says creative director Darryl Feldman. He has created a digital shop assistant who uses conversational dialogue. The Carphone Warehouse site, which goes live later this month, is fully searchable, he adds, and a pop-up menu allows deep or lateral browsing. Feldman joined the consultancy last autumn having headed up the multimedia division at The Team.

As well as retail, Clarity also focuses on financial services, IT and telecommunications, and travel and tourism. Other clients include Waterstone’s, Financial Times, BT, Railtrack, Royal & SunAlliance and RSPB. The revamped Railtrack site, the original of which was also by Clarity, will go live before Christmas. Meanwhile, the group is handling an international branding project for Royal & SunAlliance, creating templates for each region. Clarity’s work with BT Home is due to go live in the next few weeks.

The consultancy is also working on the website for Vinopolis, an interactive multimedia “edutainment” wine museum with conferencing and banqueting centre on London’s South Bank. The branding for the venture, which opens next year, is by Lewis Moberly.

Clarity was started in 1990 as an advertising and marketing consultancy focusing on technology. In 1995 it began working on the Internet, and it is in the last 18 months, since Clarity moved from Oxford to London, that the business has really taken off. And as well as the seven staff recruited in October, three or four more are likely to be added early next year, bringing the total to around 33.

Skates puts Clarity’s current spurt in growth – an increase of 140 per cent on last year – down to its solid, long-term relationships with its clients. “We avoid project-by-project work because it’s not worth it.”

He compares the consultancy’s approach with that of the ad agencies of the 1950s and 1960s, when they were “more strategy led and hooked into the marketing side of the business”, says Skates.

The focus for the next few years, says Skates, is to keep extending the range of capabilities, such as monitoring the performance of sites. “A big opportunity is managing clients’ customer relationships. This has not been well exploited to date.”

While Clarity is keen on strategic partnerships, as one of the last substantial independent multimedia groups, it is not looking to sell out. This year has seen its peers AMX Digital and CHBI change hands, with AMX being acquired by Real Time Studio earlier this year and CHBI merging with Razorfish this autumn. And Siegel & Gale is known to be looking to buy a London multimedia group.

In February Clarity became a global strategic partner of Regus McKenna company The Market Relations Group in Silicon Valley, in the US, allowing the London group to dip into the latest technologies coming from the West Coast. “We are looking for partnerships like MRG,” says Skates.

Clarity is viewed by its rivals as a solid strategic consultancy with good ideas. “In the last year they’ve really become a force,” says Siegel & Gale interactive director John Wilmott.

The industry will be watching to see whether the group’s growth and current success, achieved wholly in the traditionally volatile sector of multimedia, can be sustained.

Clarity history

Clarity describes itself as an online business development consultancy. Core skills are strategic marketing, creative communications and the commercial application of technology.

It was set up in 1990 in Oxford by chairman Martin Chilcott who came from a strategic planning background, and director of strategy James Tarin. Managing director Andrew Skates was formerly European marketing manager at IBM Software.

In 1995 the group started working on Internet projects.

In 1997 Clarity moved into offices near London’s Barbican. Creative director Darryl Feldman joined then from The Team where he had headed up the multimedia division.

It has a strategic partnership with US company The Market Relations Group for new media marketing.

This October Clarity recruited seven staff including three producers and an art director. It now has around 30 staff, and will be looking for three or four more people early next year.

This year growth increased by 140 per cent.

Clarity’s website address is www.marketing.co.uk

Latest articles

Remembering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017

We look back on the life and work of the Design Week columnist, independent creative director and social activist “who helped put black participation on the political map”.