Robert Bernard, former CEO, MarchFirst
Big year: 2000
Headline: Whittman-Hart/USWeb/CKS renamed MarchFirst
Behind the news: Robert Bernard had a knack for naming companies. There was no Whittman and no Hart at the technology consulting firm he started; he plucked the names from “The Paper Chase” because they gave his startup an air of credibility. Bernard built Whittman-Hart into a powerful enough company to buy USWeb/CKS, a white-hot online ad agency, at the height of the dot-com boom. The combination of backend IT skills and Web design skills was intended to be the new kind of e-services consultancy to thrive in the new economy. To reflect how revolutionary Bernard thought the company was, he renamed it MarchFirst, for when Whittman-Hart & USWeb/ CKS merged. The new name certainly garnered attention, but it was not enough. Saddled with debt and losses like so many other stock market darlings of the era, the company ousted Bernard in 2001 and went belly up as the boom turned to bust.
Update: Bernard’s career has come full circle: He is now chairman-CEO of WhittmanHart. —Sean Callahan
John Beystehner , COO, United Parcel Service of America
Big year: 2002
Headline: UPS debuts “What Can Brown Do for You?” campaign
Behind the news: Back in 2002, UPS was known as a shipping company, but that didn’t tell the whole story. Through a series of acquisitions, UPS had become more than a package-delivery company. It was a supply chain and logistics provider for businesses. The job of communicating that change to businesses around the world fell to John Beystehner, who oversaw the launch of the “What Can Brown Do for You?” campaign, created by the Martin Agency, in 2002. The campaign, which is ongoing, has succeeded in transforming the company’s image, particularly on the b-to-b side.
Update: Beystehner, who was senior VP-worldwide sales and marketing when he handled the debut of the “Brown” campaign, is now COO of the company. —S.C.
Shelby Bonnie/Halsey Minor , CEOs, CNET Networks
Big year: 2000
Headline: CNET acquires ZDNet
Behind the news: In 1995, Halsey Minor and Shelby Bonnie started the Internet site that would become what CNET is today. In developing CNET.com, the pair focused on building a strong product, investing in editorial that now regularly wins awards. Additionally, the site has been a leader in rolling out new online advertising units, such as the IMU. CNET has also been bold in a business sense, using its market capitalization to buy ZDNet and take a competitor off the board in 2000. With enough cash to make it through the downturn, CNET has seen its fortunes rise as Internet advertising spending has boomed over the past few years. Now, realizing that tech spending is likely to slow as a growth engine, CNET is experimenting with brand extensions, including its BNET site, which offers white papers to business executives outside of tech.
Update: Minor is chairman-CEO of Grand Central Communications. Bonnie is still running CNET. —S.C.
Sergey Brin/Larry Page, co-founders, Google
Big year: 2004
Headline: Google goes public at $85 a share
Behind the news: When Google went public last summer, it was dot-com days deja vu all over again. The difference was Google offered a business model that generated revenue and profit. The company, which started in 1998, posted revenue of $1.26 billion in the first quarter of this year, nearly double from the year-earlier period. More than a revenue generator, Google is also a profit machine, increasing its net income almost sixfold to $369 million in the first quarter from $64 million in the same period last year. Aside from its financial per-formance, Google has made headlines with its moves in e-mail, blogging software and, most recently, its entry into placing graphic ads on third-party publishing Web sites. Like Microsoft Corp. in its heyday, every move that Brin’s and Page’s company makes is scrutinized for its impact on the industry. For b-to-b marketers, Google has been a godsend in aiding targeted communications. Its AdWords program and its cost-per-click model have enabled marketers to get their message in front of potential customers at the best possible time: when they’re in the market for a product or service. In this way, Google is as close as the Internet has come to delivering on its promise of one-to-one marketing.
Update: Brin is president-technology for the company, and Page is president-products. —S.C.
Beth Comstock , CMO, General Electric Co.
Big year: 2003
Headline: GE abandons “We bring good things to life” tagline
Behind the news: Under Chairman-CEO Jack Welch, General Electric Co. was perceived as an operations powerhouse. His successor, Jeffrey Immelt, has placed a renewed emphasis on marketing, especially in the b-to-b arena. One way he has done that was elevating Beth Comstock to CMO, making her the first to hold that title in about a decade. Comstock oversaw the launch of “Imagination at Work,” a campaign and tagline that emphasized GE’s b-to-b products in aircraft engines, medical systems and wind energy. Aside from providing evidence that GE is flexing its marketing muscle, Comstock’s elevation to CMO also signaled the increasing power of public relations. While CMOs have traditionally come from advertising backgrounds, Comstock’s experience was in PR.
Update: GE’s most recent marketing effort is “Ecomagination,” in which Immelt has declared that “green is green” for business. —S.C.
Jay Fiore, senior manager-business marketing, eBay Business
Big year: 2003
Headline: EBay makes bid for b-to-b market
Behind the news: EBay, which soared to success with its online auction model, expanded from Barbies and Beanie Babies to b-to-b in early 2003. Leading the marketing charge for eBay Business was Jay Fiore, senior manager-business marketing. After doing extensive research among buyers and sellers, eBay discovered that its industrial and business categories were growing by more than 90% a year. So Fiore oversaw the launch of a major campaign aimed at small-business buyers and sellers. The campaign from Slack Barshinger, Chicago, with the tagline “Dream big, save big,” has resulted in a 30% increase in awareness of business categories among eBay’s users.
Update: This year, eBay continues its push into the small-business market with an expanded marketing campaign. Fiore is spearheading a new series of vertical ads aimed at small-business sellers, as well as using events and educational partnerships to promote the business. —Kate Maddox
Carleton Fiorina , former chairman-CEO, Hewlett-Packard Co.
Big years: 2000-2005
Headline: Fiorina ousted as HP CEO
Behind the news: During her tenure at Hewlett-Packard Co., Carleton Fiorina seemed to do nothing quietly. Her entrance as CEO of HP in 1999 was hailed as a shattering of the glass ceiling in the technology sector. Fresh from her role as president of Lucent Technologies’ global service provider business, she quickly boosted HP’s marketing presence, even appearing in ads herself. But most observers agree that invention was largely absent from Fiorina’s tenure as CEO. Instead, HP milked its printer business, and Fiorina’s tenure at the helm was eventually defined by two deals: One she didn’t get done and one she did. In 2000, HP tried to buy the consul-ting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, but the deal fell through—only to be executed later by a chief HP rival, IBM Corp. Then, in 2002, HP acquired Compaq Computer Corp. in a deal that didn’t live up to its hype. PCs never became a growth engine for earnings, and HP was unable to outperform Dell Computer Corp., the recognized leader in the field. Fiorina resigned in February of this year at the request of the HP board.
Update: Fiorina’s replacement, Mark Hurd, boosted earnings in his first quarter at the helm but promptly lowered predictions for the next quarter. —S.C.
Gordon T. Hughes II, president-CEO, American Business Media
Big year: 2000
Headline: American Business Press changes name to American Business Media
Behind the news: Gordon Hughes has smoothly walked the line between serving the needs of American Business Media’s members and gently nudging the organization in the direction he thinks it should go. Hughes, whose background was in broadcast television before taking the association’s helm in 1994, was a vocal proponent on exploring the possibilities of the Internet. He helped champion the organization’s name change in 2000 to American Business Media from American Business Press in an acknowledgement that what were once print publishing companies had become media concerns offering trade shows and Web sites in addition to magazines. It didn’t hurt that the name change helped open new areas for recruiting members.
Update: Hughes remains the ABM’s chief and is pushing his members to turn potential threats, such as rich data and blogs, into revenue streams. —S.C.
Peter Kann, chairman-CEO, Dow Jones & Co.
Big year: 2005
Headline: Dow Jones announces plans for “Weekend Edition”
Behind the news: Peter Kann has had a lot to contend with in the past four years: a brutal b-to-b recession that essentially halved ad dollars in two years at Dow Jones’ flagship, The Wall Street Journal; a dose of labor strife; and occasional calls for his job from disgruntled shareholders. Kann’s critics compare Dow Jones’ performance to other large media companies, such as Gannett Co., but a better comparison would be to other b-to-b publishing companies, many of which have seen their share prices plummet. Kann and his management team have quietly guided Dow Jones to positions of strength on the Internet with The Wall Street Journal Online. Additionally, the Journal has debuted “Personal Journal” and other new sections to attract more consumer advertisers. The Weekend Edition of the Journal, slated to debut in September, marks another attempt to lessen the newspaper’s dependence on b-to-b advertising.
Update: Kann is still chairman-CEO of Dow Jones and green-lighted the recent acquisition of MarketWatch to expand the company’s online offerings. —S.C.
Abby Kohnstamm , senior VP-marketing, IBM Corp.
Big years: 2000, 2002
Headline: Kohnstamm markets new vision for IBM
Behind the news: Abby Kohnstamm, who joined IBM Corp. in 1993 and worked her way up the corporate marketing ranks, became the company’s first female senior VP in 2000, with overall responsibility for global marketing operations. One of her tasks was to communicate a new vision of IBM as a provider of “on-demand” services, as defined by CEO Sam Palmisano. In October 2002, under Kohnstamm’s direction, IBM launched a major campaign with the tagline “E-business on demand.” The campaign, created by IBM’s agency, Ogilvy & Mather, was a global integrated effort that included TV, print, online, direct, outdoor and events. It communicated the message that IBM could provide products and services to help businesses operate in an on-demand world. In the first quarter after the campaign was launched, TV ad awareness for IBM grew by 20%.
Update: Under Kohnstamm’s direction, IBM has continued to launch award-winning campaigns for its “on demand” agenda. —K.M.
Dave Morgan , CEO, Tacoda Systems
Big year: 2004
Headline: Tacoda secures contract with New York Times Digital
Behind the news: In April 2001, one year after the dot-com bubble burst but before the nadir had been reached, Dave Morgan launched Tacoda Systems. Tacoda is military terminology for target coordinate data, and the company is all about producing marketing direct hits. It sells systems to media companies that enable behavioral targeting. But what it really sells —along with competitors such as Revenue Science—is the original promise of the Web: reaching interested customers, preferably right when they’re thinking about buying. “We’re the only targeting system that was built expressly to target the audience,” Morgan said.
Update: Tacoda Systems is going toe to toe with Revenue Science for customers in the behavioral targeting realm, which will likely only continue to grow in importance to marketers. —S.C.
James Murphy, global managing director-marketing and communications, Accenture
Big year: 2001
Headline: Murphy oversees rebranding of Accenture
Behind the news: James Murphy, marketing chief at consulting firm Accenture, had a big challenge in 2001: Rebrand the former Andersen Consulting, which split off from Arthur Andersen in August 2000. Murphy spearheaded a $175 million campaign, created by Y&R Advertising, to highlight the company’s name change on Jan. 1, 2001. The campaign, which included TV, print and outdoor ads, had an initial tagline of “Now it gets interesting” and debuted with TV spots during the Super Bowl. While many industry observers had doubts about the name change, the campaign paid off. By the end of May 2001, Accenture had achieved an increase of at least 75% over its former name awareness, beating its goal of a 50% increase in awareness.
Update: Murphy continues to expand Accenture’s marketing campaign, which now has the tagline, “High performance. Delivered,” and features Tiger Woods. —K.M.
Kevin O’Connor, chairman, DoubleClick Inc.
Big year: 2000
Headline: DoubleClick deal fuels privacy investigation
Behind the news: Kevin O’Connor, founder of online ad technology company DoubleClick, fueled a controversy over online privacy with his plan to merge ad serving technology with consumer data resulting from DoubleClick’s acquisition of database company Abacus in 1999. The acquisition spurred an investigation into online privacy by the Federal Trade Commission, and in July 2000 O’Connor stepped down as CEO. In 2001, the FTC closed its investigation into DoubleClick’s privacy practices, finding that the company did not use consumer data improperly. DoubleClick went on to succeed as an online ad serving and technology giant, expanding into e-mail, rich media and opt-in database marketing.
Update: O’Connor remains chairman of DoubleClick, which is being acquired by Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, for $1.1 billion. —K.M.
Rosalind Resnick , former chairman-CEO, NetCreations
Big year: 2000
Headline: NetCreations sold to Seat Pagine Gialle for $111 million
Behind the news: Rosalind Resnick, a former business journalist, founded e-mail marketing company NetCreations as a home-based business in 1995. With initial plans to provide Web site development, Resnick quickly saw the burgeoning potential for e-mail marketing and switched the business plan to e-mail list management and opt-in e-mail marketing. In 1999, NetCreations raised $42.9 million in an IPO, but by 2000 the business was struggling in the wake of the dot-com crash. The company’s stock dropped from a 52-week high of $69.75 to $10 by October 2000. DoubleClick, seeking to boost its e-mail marketing services, made an offer to acquire NetCreations in a stock deal valued at $191 million. However, with DoubleClick’s stock quickly losing value as it struggled with privacy concerns, Net-Creations in December 2000 accepted a competing offer by Italian conglomerate Seat Pagine Gialle for $111 million. Resnick continued as chairman-CEO until 2001. In 2004, NetCreations was sold to e-mail services provider Return Path for an undisclosed price.
Update: Resnick is now CEO of Double R Ventures, a consulting and private equity investment firm she founded to serve emerging businesses. —K.M.
Al Ries, chairman; Laura Ries , president, Ries & Ries
Big year: 2002
Headline: Al and Laura Ries publish “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR”
Behind the news: Al Ries and his daughter, Laura, wrote one of the most controversial marketing books of the nascent century, “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR.” The book posits the theory that advertising is no longer the way to build brands; PR is. The Rieses contend advertising had lost its believability, especially when it came to new products. The way, then, to introduce a new brand to the consciousness of the market is through the media. To influence the media, PR is necessary. The Rieses cited several examples of new brands—Starbucks, Red Bull and Google—that were built with almost no advertising but a bucketful of public relations. Of course, ad agencies vociferously disputed the Rieses’ conclusions, and others say the notions put forth in the book are obvious. But they got people talking—and sold a lot of books.
Update: The Rieses’ next book, “The Origin of Brands,” didn’t strike the same chord. —S.C.
Thomas S. Rogers, former chairman-CEO, Primedia
Big year: 2003
Headline: Rogers forced to resign as head of Primedia
Behind the news: Thomas S. Rogers was hailed as a visionary who would remake Primedia into a company for the Internet age. After rising to prominence at NBC Cable, he took the reins of Primedia in 1999, where his Internet experience helped drive the company’s share price to more than $30 in 2000. But by the time Rogers was forced out in April 2003, the share price at times had fallen below $2. While at the helm, Rogers made a number of ill-timed and ill-fated moves. The purchase of About.com for $700 million in stock—six months after the stock market plunge—contributed to the decline of Primedia’s share price. The Media Central experiment with Brill’s Content was dismantled after Rogers departed. With the notable exception of the Emap purchase on the enthusiast publishing side, Rogers’ successor, Kelly Conlin, has undone many of Rogers’ moves.
Update: Among Rogers’ many current roles is vice chairman of TiVo. —S.C.
Don Scales , president-CEO, Agency.com
Big years: 2003-2004
Headline: Scales leads the charge to scale Agency.com’s growth
Behind the news: The year 2003 was a tough one for online agencies, so Don Scales had his work cut out for him when he was named president that year of Agency.com, an online agency founded in 1995 by Chan Suh and Kyle Shannon. With a vision of expanding Agency.com into a full-service interactive communications agency, Scales began to ramp up operations, including acquiring online advertising agency Exile on Seventh in 2004. By the end of his first year as president, Scales had racked up many accomplishments, including the addition of 24 new clients and the acquisition of the agency by Omnicom Group.
Update: As it celebrates 10 years in business this year, Agency.com is poised for even more growth. The agency is expanding its services in rich media, analytics and media planning, and expects to grow its workforce by 20% to 25%, Scales said. —K.M.
Tom Siebel, chairman, Siebel Systems
Big year: 2003
Headline: Siebel is unrivaled market leader in CRM
Behind the news: Siebel Systems, which was founded in 1993 by former Oracle sales star Tom Siebel, cashed in on one of the hottest areas of growth in what was then an otherwise stagnant technology market—CRM software. By 2003, the company had been acknowledged by Gartner, IDC and Deutsche Bank Securities as the unrivaled leader in the CRM market. Gartner estimated Siebel’s CRM market share at 22%, followed by its closest competitor at 4%. Also in 2003, Tom Siebel was inducted into CRM Magazine’s CRM Hall of Fame, was named Master Entrepreneur of the Year by Northern California Ernst & Young and accepted the Entrepreneurial Company of the Year award from Harvard Business School. A button-down executive who is known for his conservative business style, Siebel started his company with cash from his own pocket and hired many of his first employees for stock options rather than salaries. When the company went public in 1996, more than 70 of them became instant millionaires. Siebel’s personal net worth is estimated at more than $1.2 billion, according to a 2004 report by Forbes.
Update: Siebel stepped down as CEO in May 2004 and was replaced by Michael Lawrie, former senior VP-group executive for sales and distribution at IBM Corp. Siebel remains chairman of Siebel Systems, which had revenue of $1.3 billion in 2004. —K.M.
Jim Spanfeller , CEO, Forbes.com
Big year: 2002
Headline: Forbes.com introduces brand increase guarantee
Behind the news: Jim Spanfeller came to Forbes.com from tech publisher Ziff Davis, where he began to develop an abiding faith in free content on the Internet and its ability to reach a business audience. In boosting Forbes.com, Spanfeller has been part Internet evangelist and part carnival barker. On one hand, Spanfeller and Forbes.com have championed research that showed top executives were using the Internet to gather information. Forbes.com then spread this information by offering a “brand increase guarantee,” which said that any company spending $150,000 on the site would see at least one key brand metric improve. Spanfeller also offered the “Forbes.com Challenge,” which holds that advertisers spending the same amount in Forbes.com and the print Wall Street Journal will see a bigger bang for their buck on the free Web site. Spanfeller felt some vindication of the Forbes.com model earlier this year when Dow Jones & Co. bought MarketWatch, a free financial site, to complement The Wall Street Journal Online, a subscription site.
Update: Spanfeller continues to push the Internet envelope. Proof of that is Forbes.com’s recent hiring of a director of video programming. —S.C.
Greg Strakosch, CEO, TechTarget
Big year: 2004
Headline: TechTarget raises $70 million in venture capital funding
Behind the news: Under co-founders Greg Strakosch and Don Hawk, TechTarget has set a brisk pace in developing niche Web sites, such as searchsecurity.com and search400.com. For Strakosch, a primary power of the Internet is to provide deep content to niche markets and then connect marketers with these readers to generate leads. But Strakosch is not a dot-com zealot. He knows that b-to-b marketers want more than the Internet, and so TechTarget has been nimble enough to offer live events and bold enough to launch print titles, such as CIO Decisions. In the process, the company has become a proponent of the old-fashioned controlled circulation model, whether it’s online, in person or in print.
Update: Strakosch has recently placed an emphasis on expanding TechTarget overseas, forming partnerships to gain footholds in China, Korea and Taiwan. —S.C.
Mark Walsh, former chairman-CEO, Verticalnet
Big years: 2000-2002
Headline: Verticalnet hit hard as dot-com bubble bursts
Behind the news: Verticalnet was a brilliant idea hatched by Mike Hagan and Mike McNulty in 1995. The company was built around the premise that business information in the future would be transmitted via the Internet, which has certainly proven true. The pair started with a few sites, such as wateronline.com, and quickly ramped up to more than 50 to meet the demands of the public markets. The founders put Mark Walsh, a former HBO and AOL executive, at the helm. His gift of gab—he once called traditional trade publishers “dinosaurs”—helped push Verticalnet to a market capitalization of more than $12 billion. But then the bubble burst, and the company’s key weakness was exposed: It was “a mile wide and an inch deep,” in the words of one analyst. After the dot-com collapse, established b-to-b media brands, which could create the deep content that the Internet rewards, quickly reasserted control over their markets. Walsh eventually resigned as chairman in 2002, and Verticalnet remains in business as a software company.
Update: Walsh was briefly the head of Progress Media, the owner of Air America Radio, but resigned in 2004. —S.C.
David Wetherell, chairman-CEO, CMGI
Big year: 2000
Headline: Internet darling CMGI peaks, then crashes
Behind the news: David Wetherell, an Internet visionary who launched his business in 1986 through the acquisition of College Marketing Group (which later became CMGI), was the ultimate Internet deal-maker. With a knack for spotting and acquiring hot technology companies, by early 2000 Wetherell had acquired more than 50 companies, including search engine company AltaVista, direct marketing company Engage, online ad company Adsmart and online auction company uBid. He also made a fortune selling companies, including Geocities to Yahoo! for a profit of $1 billion. However, after the dot-com crash, investors and shareholders began to question the value of his deals. CMGI’s stock, which peaked in March 2000 at $163 a share, by September of that year had tumbled to about $40 a share. At the company’s annual shareholders meeting in December 2000, Wetherell offered to step down as CEO, but the board refused. Finally, after the company’s stock plummeted to less than $1 a share by October 2002, Wetherell resigned as CEO.
Update: Wetherell remains chairman of CMGI, which now sells e-commerce supply chain software through its operating company ModusLink. —K.M.
Jerry Yang/ David Filo , co-founders of Yahoo!
Big year: 2005
Headline: Yahoo! celebrates 10 years in business
Behind the news: Global brand Yahoo! started out as a hobby for Stanford University engineering students Jerry Yang and David Filo, who created an index of their favorite Internet sites on a computer in their trailer. Realizing the huge potential of their venture, the two incorporated their business in 1995, selecting Yahoo! (“Yet another hierarchical officious oracle”) as the company name. With initial backing of $2 million from Sequoia Capital, Yahoo! raised $280 million in its IPO in April 1996. The company survived the dot-com crash, becoming a leader in Internet indexing, search, advertising and other services. This year, Yahoo! announced several significant b-to-b ventures, including a search developers network, small-business resource center, free Web sites for small businesses and a search marketing group for businesses.
Update: Yang continues to serve as a director of Yahoo!, working closely with Chairman-CEO Terry Semel. Filo directs the company’s technology efforts. Both have the title Chief Yahoo! —K.M.