I Discovered The Internet – Kinda True
This is my 800th blog post. So why not get personal? Here is my story about how I discovered the Internet and left advertising in 1995 to become an Internet start-up CEO. I think that it might be instructive to the people leaving the advertising industry today. Don’t take my word for it, people are leaving – read Avi Dan’s Forbes article, “People Are Fleeing The Ad Industry Because Of Burnout And Wanting To Work From Home.”
By the way, that is a picture of the explorer Robert Peary.
When I Discovered The Internet and The End Of My Advertising Agency Career
After my three years working at the Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide London office as European Director running business development and the J&J and Sara Lee Europe accounts, my family and I returned to Summit, New Jersey in the winter of 1994. Our welcome was a brutally iced in house. So iced that we had to hire some off-duty firemen to chop out the ice so we could use the front and back doors.
After leaving Charlotte Street, I now worked at the big black iconic (Darth Vader) Saatchi & Saatchi building on NYC’s Hudson Street. My large 18th-floor office had a wide-angle view and very cool furniture inherited from a recently exited executive creative director. Due to a failed New York office culture, talented colleagues were starting to exit the building.
My job was running Saatchi’s North American business development group. The job was nearly impossible as poor management had trashed Saatchi’s New York reputation and the global brand itself was in decline. The Saatchi brothers had finally overreached when they tried to buy a UK bank. These advertising guys’ “want to buy a bank” hubris was not warmly received by the public markets. Saatchi’s had gone from being the “world’s favorite” advertising agency to a company that no longer got the type of new business incoming and responses I had become accustomed to. Like, I wasn’t getting returned calls from prospective clients. This was a new experience. However, I was getting weekly calls from the trade press asking me for comments about people fleeing the New York office. Not the kind of trade media calls a business development director wants to receive.
I Discovered The Internet
While all of this office and career shit was going down, I had discovered the Internet and its insane growth curve. Yes, I discovered the Internet. Well, this happened because I returned to the USA from the Luddite UK and got the wake-up call.
I immediately fell in love with digital platforms like CD-ROMs, Netscape Navigator (the first commercial graphical browser launched in October 1994), and, of course, America Online and CompuServe. I was also seeing the exponential growth of Internet usage – as shown in the chart. How could this not be a gold rush? This was around the time that Jeff Bezos became enamored with the dramatic hockey puck growth of Internet uptake and you see where that got him. Side note, I had had my first early taste of digital when I briefly ran the Western Union Easylink email account a long time before I moved to the UK. Easylink was the first commercial email service – or as we called it, Instant Mail. Um, yes, a good idea but a bit early. Understatement.
In 1995, one did not have to be a genius to see that the digital universe would become a serious advertising platform. I tried to get Saatchi management interested but they were so consumed by the Saatchi death spiral that, like small children, I could not get them to focus on the new opportunity that was right in front of them. We could have been a contenda.
A Life Switch – “Get The Fuck Out Of Advertising”
Two things soon happened that would change my life.
First, thanks to my prescient friend Mike Donahue, who was the digital lead at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, I found out about Redgate Communications. The leading, and one of the few, digital ad agencies. [Read more…] about How I Discovered The Internet After Saatchi