Susan Bratton

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THEN

"If I'm not surfing on my WebTV, I'm reading books I've ordered from Amazon.com."

Susan Bratton

Advertising age, 06/01/98

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NOW

For the internet advertising cognoscenti, it would be difficult to picture Susan Bratton anywhere but hard at work promoting online advertising. She joined the pioneering broadband service @Home Network at its creation more than five years ago and was part of its growth through an acquisition binge that aimed to make what became known as Excite@Home an advertising powerhouse.

That didn't happen. It had nothing to do with Ms. Bratton's tireless promotion of the company for which she worked as senior VP-sales and marketing-and a lot to do with a company spinning out of control.

During the course of this year, Excite@Home spun off its rich media company Enliven, closed its ad management company MatchLogic and attempted to sell portal Excite. By the end of the summer, and less than two months before the company filed for bankruptcy, it decided to shutter its ad sales division.

Now instead of counting her achievements, Ms. Bratton, 40, has a different score to tally.

"Yesterday I broke 120 on the golf course," she says, six weeks after leaving. Watching what she calls "the miasma of the industry" would be enough to sour most on Internet advertising. But to those who encountered her during her Excite@Home career, it's probably little surprise that she remains an enthusiastic cheerleader of the industry.

"I love online advertising," she says, adding, "one of my biggest concerns was that the @Home Network as a company went away, but where is that broadband braintrust? They're flung like a million stars across the universe." With typical optimism, she continues, "Which is actually not such a bad thing. In reality, there are people everywhere who have drunk from the font of speed."

Ms. Bratton credits the slow adoption of broadband with moving the cause of so-called rich media forward. "Things that they did to a small number of people in broadband they're now doing to a larger number of people, even in narrowband," she says.

As the medium continues to evolve, those tools, coupled with the larger ads now favored by many advertisers, will be the key to reaching consumers, Ms. Bratton believes. She also predicts that online advertising will increasingly be a hybrid model, combining aspects of both branding and direct response.

But even Ms. Bratton knows resurrecting the business won't be easy. She says, "Will it continue to be a struggle? Yes. Will it be the end of online advertising? No. Will people continue to be more clever? Yes."

Not that Ms. Bratton is bothered by the caveats. Though she's working on her golf game, it's clear she wants back in to Internet advertising.

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