I always thought I had a great job back in Blighty, but becoming
Carlton’s US envoy takes the biscuit.
As if the past six weeks in New York wasn’t a big enough eye-opener, I
have now hit the city where it really is all happening, San Francisco.
Russian and Mexican taxi drivers are too busy talking to their brokers
about the fortunes of eBay to ask you where you want to go. Restaurants
are full of fresh-faced dotcom millionaires with attractive women at
their sides. Just about every hoarding, radio ad and TV commercial is
for a dotcom start-up. At least half the dollars 3 billion spent on
offline advertising in the US last year came from the West Coast.
Every conversation contains speculation about which start-ups blew their
seed money on the wrong kind of promotion, bad creative and a general
lack of understanding about marketing - and then failed to secure their
second round of funding. There are plenty of them. The focus is all
about getting as many eyeballs as quickly as possible in the major
One of the biggest headaches for start-ups is finding marketers who
understand the potential of e-commerce and can market a brand-new
concept. Some companies founded by technical ’whizz kids’ are
outsourcing their entire sales and marketing efforts to those that
surely know better.
Here you are frowned upon if you turn up to work in a suit and tie. The
message it gives out is that you are from ’old business’ and that you
just don’t get it. Better trade in all those suits for chinos and a polo
In New York it is cool to have a dressing up day on a Friday, where
everyone drops the skateboards, blades or push scooters and turns up
wearing designer suits just for a laugh. Here no-one cares about such
Put in a call to try and fix a meeting with a dotcom and the answer is
usually: ’Sure, what time do you wanna come in? I can give you half an
hour.’ What, you mean today? Wow, I’m not used to this.
Tell them that they could have sponsored Who Wants To Be A
for the same price as one spot in the Super Bowl and they nearly choke
on their hygienically wrapped, lo-sodium, lo-fat take-out.
Many have got ambitious expansion plans for the UK and Europe, but
hundreds more have already blown their funding or believe their product
translates better to other territories such as Asia. Although there are
many waiting in the wings, UK advertisers can be assured that dotcom ads
are unlikely to ever reach 25 per cent of broadcast revenue like they
did in the US last year.
And with Freeserve, big cracks are starting to show. Shares in several
big US e-commerce companies have crashed: eToys’ shares are down 80 per
cent from their peak, Priceline’s shares are down 69 per cent and Etrade
is down 66 per cent. There is still more to come, and when it does it is
likely to affect the entire global economy.
However, the US-based dotcoms that enter the UK will be at the top of
the evolution chain and will be successful through smart alliances with
established, profitable companies who know the ropes.