WEB CREATOR: ADVERTISERS AREN'T TAPPING POTENTIAL

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[geneva] He helped found the World Wide Web, but he never plays computer games and doesn't even have a PC at home.

"There are only computers in my washing machine and stereo," said 27-year-old Jean-Francois Groff, one of the founders of the World Wide Web. "I don't want one. I work with them."

Mr. Groff does more than just "work" with computers at his Web design firm, InfoDesign, in Geneva. His company, co-founded with Jacques Descombes, 33, gained its reputation for being among the first Web services firms when it put the Technical Library of Denmark on the Web (http://www.dtu.dk/dtv/) in 1992.

Most recently, InfoDesign prepared the worldwide launch of Citro‰n's new car, the Saxo, with a teaser site (http://citroen.ch/), with the main site opening with the unveiling of the car during the Geneva Motor Show this month.

Last fall, InfoDesign created the Internet Telecom Observer (http://telobs.com/), the first online daily to cover the telecommunications industry and the quadrennial Telecom convention held in Geneva in October. An interactive multimedia magazine, the Telecom Observer includes a roundup of Telecom '95 news, interviews combining text, sound and image, and original background pieces.

An independent team of print media, radio, TV and photojournalists, together with computer graphic artists, reported on the events and analyzed telecom developments. (Advertising Age is a media member of the Telecom Observer.)

CREATING THE WEB

For Mr. Groff, the Telecom Observer was a natural. Raised in Avignon, France, he attended the National Institute of Telecommunications in Paris, and then in 1991, in lieu of compulsory military service, he joined CERN, a European physics laboratory founded in 1954, "where 8,000 scientists from 19 member states smash atoms into little Big Bangs to unveil the secrets of matter."

It was at CERN that English scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the core Web technology and the first prototypes for the Web in 1990. He wanted to give people a simple and unified way to access information available from computers, no matter where and how it is stored.

Mr. Groff joined a year later. "Europe has a tradition of inventing great technology and letting America exploit it, like the Web," he said. "The U.S. has done a great job in popularizing the Web. If it was left to Europe, it would still be in the labs. The U.S. has a tradition of taking technology from the labs and industrializing it."

WEB SITES

But there's a huge market in Europe, where Mr. Groff intends to stay. "Companies aren't as excited about creating home pages in Europe as in the U.S.," he said, partly due to big cultural differences such as language barriers. "Most Web sites are based on local markets. The Internet speaks only in English. To an international businessman, that's no problem, but for a local businessman, it is."

InfoDesign is creating Web sites in Europe for companies such as Hewlett-Packard Europe that hired InfoDesign to create a site (http://www-europe.hp.com/JobPosting/) on which it can post job openings. Launched in August in France and Spain, Dominique Grau, information technology manager for human resources at HP in Geneva, said it will be expanded to include the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Italy this year.

Another company that hired InfoDesign is Filipacchi Medias, the Paris-based magazine publisher. Roger Lajus, a Filipacchi director, said InfoDesign is helping the company place its weekly Pariscope on the Web "to get more international readers." (http://pariscope.fr/)

Mr. Groff doesn't believe companies are taking full advantage of the Web.

"There's a great potential for advertising," he said, noting that the marketing possibilities on the Web were apparent from the beginning. "The ones who win [with advertising on the Web] will be the creative people because they will invent a new language.

"Already, the people who are making the most of it are the companies selling their own products to a worldwide audience with no intermediaries and no extra cost."

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