Campaign Interactive: Profile Andy Mitchell - AltaVista visionary promises a bold ’pure brand strategy’/Grabbing UK market share for AltaVista will be tough, Gordon MacMillan explains

Andy Mitchell arrives at Campaign’s offices loaded down with Habitat bags, looking as though he is off on a camping trip. Camping with Habitat is bound to catch on.

Andy Mitchell arrives at Campaign’s offices loaded down with

Habitat bags, looking as though he is off on a camping trip. Camping

with Habitat is bound to catch on.

The camping bit isn’t too far from the truth. Having built the internet

sales company, Double-Click, in the UK from scratch over the past two

years, he is moving on.

Career-wise, he has now taken the helm as the managing director of the

search engine, AltaVista UK. As for Habitat, moving jobs has coincided

with moving house, not to mention the new car and the break-up with the


It’s new beginnings all around, and for AltaVista UK it’s going to be a

tough birth. While AltaVista is a familiar name to UK surfers who use

the US site, it has yet to arrive in the UK in any force - Freeserve,

MSN and Yahoo!

have so far dominated the market.

Luckily, Mitchell revealed at the beginning of the interview that what

he is really interested in is a challenge.

’The new challenge is the reason that I am joining. At this stage in my

career I would rather do it all over again. It is an opportunity to set

up another company that will get to number one within a reasonable time

- which is a year from now,’ Mitchell says.

Quite a target. We can expect a fight as the respective brands slug it

out for a slice of the future of the UK internet business.

Mitchell, however, is smart and confident. It’s what he’s known for, and

he is not fazed by the fact that AltaVista UK is late arriving.

’The fact that AltaVista is late to the market presents a different set

of challenges, that’s all. AltaVista is a big player and brand without

being here. It already has 2.5 million users in the UK who use the

dotcom site in the US,’ he says.

It’s the brand word again. That elusive Eldorado-like quality that so

many dotcoms are searching for. The size of the UK audience using rather than a local search site seems to suggest that

something is going on; that AltaVista has something that the others do


’It defies a lot of brand management or brand stewardship. You haven’t

seen any ads, or any deliberate brand management strategy, yet there are

2.5 million people in the UK using it,’ Mitchell says.

That absence of marketing is about to change. Mitchell is promising an

aggressive, brand-led marketing campaign designed by Wieden & Kennedy,

which picked up the dollars 120 million global account last year. The

campaign began in November with the ’smart is beautiful’ tagline. Local

work may be developed for the UK, but it is the US ads - which will run

here - that set the tone.

’It is pure brand strategy. Where a lot of dotcoms have failed is that

they are pushing services and products on to consumers. That isn’t how

you build a brand.’

Mitchell began his career in advertising, where he first worked with

brands. However, it was a stint in IT with Rank Xerox which put him on

the road that eventually led to AltaVista.

Mitchell’s period at Xerox paid off when he found himself working at the

US ad agency, Stoorza Ziegaus Metzger. This was in 1994 and clients in

the US were just starting to ask questions about the internet.

Mitchell, with his Xerox experience, could tell what a client server

set-up was - enough to have you marked out as a technology whizz in many

an ad agency.

By 1995, Mitchell was back in London and being interviewed for a

business director job on the Ford account at Ogilvy & Mather. Rhona

Tridgell, then client services director and now at Zenith, spotted the

word ’web’ on the bottom of his CV and hired him as digital development


His move out of the agency into ad sales surprised a lot of people. But

maybe no more so than his latest move into media ownership.

’It is new to me. A challenge to find the best editors and producers. I

joined both companies pre IPO. I was pre IPO at DoubleClick and pre IPO

at AltaVista,’ he says.

Arrrgh, the IPO. You can guarantee there will be one for Alta-Vista,

just like DoubleClick. This brings us to the question of stock. It has

something to do with golden handcuffs, apparently.

’I am giving up a significant amount of stock to make this move. There

is a package at Alta-Vista and you take the golden handcuffs. So I have

just broken one set of handcuffs to put myself into some new ones,’

Mitchell says.



Rank Xerox, business analyst


LS&A International, account manager


Stoorza Ziegaus Metzger, California, account supervisor


Ogilvy & Mather, London, digital development director


DoubleClick UK, managing director


AltaVista UK, managing director

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).