As I-Shops Wrangle with Identity, Scient Finds Niche Work for BP

Petroleum producer BP is extending its rebranding effort to the Web, courtesy of i-shop Scient, which Thursday concluded a six-month effort at assisting BP’s ad agencies in an online brand overhaul.

Following a string of acquisitions, the London-based BP — known variously as British Petroleum and BP Amoco — in recent months launched a massive rebranding campaign, designed to incorporate recent purchases of ARCO and Burmah Castrol under a new corporate identity (as well as communicating a awareness of environmental issues). In addition to a new logo, a new name and a new ad tagline, the company hired the San Francisco-based interactive shop to oversee the alignment of its Web presence with its new identity.

The work consisted largely of a new corporate portal at, drawing on offline elements created by BP’s global brand and advertising agencies, WPP Group-owned Landor Associates and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. London-based interactive design firm Pauffley also participated, having handled some BP’s online investor relations work in the past.

Scient said it brought in 30 of its consultants to redesign the site, which was to serve as the first point of contact with customers of BP Group as well as those of recently acquired brands.

In all, the firm’s tasks ranged from project oversight and straight Web design, to brand and image consultancy, and even to assisting BP with commissioning and art-directing worldwide photo shoots to build up a library of Web images for the company.

“This project marks an important milestone in the global re-branding program of BP,” said a spokesperson for BP’s Global Gateway team. “Scient helped us think through and then bring to life our on-line vision of BP’s brand. In particular, Scient helped match BP’s strategic objectives with a new ‘look and feel’ for”

But what’s unusual about the work is that it’s not really what Scient is known for.

Scient, for the most part, historically has positioned its services as more technical than anything else. In fact, its Web site describes a core focus of being able to “architect, design and build digital solutions that reduce costs and create new sources of revenue; [and] integrate those solutions with the client’s infrastructure to increase their ability to manage in real time.”

But Tomas Ancona, creative strategist at the firm, said that Scient’s role in the BP account “was to add to BP’s existing work … in developing its brand essence and [to] provide tools which BP staff can use to rebrand its digital presence.”

Scient’s new shift to handle more brand-consultancy work isn’t coming out of the blue, however. Amid tightening pressure from investors and the market at large, interactive shops like Scient, Razorfish and Organic increasingly are finding themselves pressed to find a core discipline, and to stick to it. As a result, executives at these firms are facing something of an identity crisis: are these companies technology developers, advertising agencies, or some mixture of the two?

Organic — which is partially owned by Seneca Ventures, a joint venture of ad agency group Omnicom — seems to be taking the advertising route as of late, having recently signed a strategic alliance with BBDO Worldwide (though some insiders suggest the partnership was organized by the two firms’ mutual parent, Omnicom).

Meanwhile, fellow Seneca-owned player Razorfish is struggling to find its place with a new chief executive at the helm. It’s new boss, Jean-Phillipe Maheu, said during a recent conference call with analysts that the company would begin outsourcing some of the more technical aspects of its business to focus on strategy — but has said little since.

But according to insiders at Scient, it’s not so much that it actually wants to oversee a brand’s digital presence; instead, spokespeople said its goal is to deliver technology services as a developer for online marketing and e-business clients, and their agencies.

So if Scient has to oversee an online brand redesign to do that, it’s willing.

“Though we are very proud of delivering this excellent site, as always, our strategic role is the crucial underpinning of the value we ultimately deliver to our blue chip clients,” Ancona said, adding that the tools Scient developed for BP could be repurposed for the company’s other online branding efforts.

“In many ways, is just the first manifestation” of Scient’s work, he said.

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