I always thought I had a great job back in Blighty, but becoming Carlton’s US envoy takes the biscuit.

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.