CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: PROFILE SUSAN BOSTER - Marketing chief who’s cutting out a niche for News Network/Susan Boster is enthused about the chance to shape new media

Susan Boster, a tall, strikingly attractive woman, strides through the executive lounge at Heathrow, clad in a business suit and a mini T-shirt, the ’page3.com’ logo emblazoned across her chest.

Susan Boster, a tall, strikingly attractive woman, strides through

the executive lounge at Heathrow, clad in a business suit and a mini

T-shirt, the ’page3.com’ logo emblazoned across her chest.



The chief commerce and marketing officer at News Network just laughs

when asked about her style. Perhaps it’s that bold American thing -

maybe her confidence is one of the reasons why Boster is partly

responsible for realising Rupert Murdoch’s internet ambitions in the

UK.



News International recently contributed to a pounds 12 million

investment in the local information site Upmystreet.com. And in the

following months Boster promises that we will see News Network investing

in many more internet ventures.



Boster has an enterprising attitude to business and to making sure ideas

are followed through. Upon completing opera studies at drama school she

had intended to go on a mission to save endangered species. Instead she

was side-tracked after she heard about a Duracell interactive pitch

going on at Ogilvy & Mather.



Along with a group of friends, she dreamed up a company and they stormed

their way through to pitch and win the dollars 250,000 account.



She says: ’It was second nature to us, we were all theatrical after

all.’



A spell in a loft in a ’dodgy downtown business building’ followed. Then

in 1996 Boster arrived at barnesandnoble.com where she was made

responsible for driving online book sales against the worldwide market

leader, Amazon.com - a tough task indeed.



However, a trip to the UK to deliver a lecture made her realise the

powerful position she was in.



She explains: ’I came over here and there were all these guys sitting

around a table who had no idea. I knew I could make a killing.’



News Network has grown from two people sitting in a local Wapping bar to

a staff of 120. To date, the company has launched three brands: bun.com,

page3.com and, most recently, firedup.com.



News International Digital Publishing was rebranded as News Network four

months ago to distance its online activities from its publishing

business.



However, News Network still retains the promotional advantage of being

owned by a traditional media company. Moreover, it is the kind of

company that allows you to use the front page of The Sun to launch your

internet access service, currantbun.com.



Currantbun.com has had a bumpy ride, being first rebranded as bun.com,

then allocated a pounds 10 million ad campaign and finally sold to the

European internet service provider WorldOnline.



The way Boster sees it, News Network is about building a marketplace to

connect the advertiser and the customer. She argues that, in its time,

currantbun.com as a recognised brand did just that.



But when the strategy changed and the name was shortened to bun.com,

that link was lost.



News Network is now sticking to what it does best: content. The biggest

new project is the hybrid entertainment and auction site firedup.com.

The site aims to make e-commerce entertaining and it is a brand that

News Network would like to extend offline.



’It gives people a chance to do something that they would never normally

be able to do, such as rub shoulders with the stars at the Oscars,’

Boster explains.



It helped that Bruce Willis’s face fronted the site’s advertising,

netting News Network the kudos of having the first celebrity-fronted

dotcom campaign.



It seems that when Boster invited ad agencies to pitch for the

firedup.com account, Trevor Beattie, the executive creative director of

TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, took the domain name at its word.



’I’ve never seen a creative with such passion,’ Boster says.



Although pleased with the creative work done by both TBWA and Mother,

Boster, like many other new-media people, thinks that ad agencies just

don’t get it.



’Traditional ad agencies don’t know how to address what is going on at

all,’ Boster says.



At 30, she is relatively young to hold such a senior position in a major

organisation. She puts this down to the fact that the new-media industry

doesn’t penalise age and gender in the way that more traditional

industries tend to do.



Anyway, she says the good thing about her job is that ’this business is

not defined, we are defining it.’



THE BOSTER FILE

1992

The US National Audubon Society, development associate

1994

Site Specific, US, director of marketing and communication

1996

barnesandnoble.com, director of marketing

1998

LineOne/News International, director of marketing,

1999

News Network, chief commerce and marketing officer