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
AltaVista.com 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,’
THE MITCHELL FILE
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