Andrew Anker

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"This is the bottoms-up way to go," he said, scoffing at Time Warner's Orlando project.

Andrew Anker

Advertising age, 09/18/95 qwikfind aam75a


It wasn't quite the equivalent of "Watson, come here!" but when the first online ad banner went live Oct. 27, 1994, it was Andrew Anker who flipped the switch. As president of HotWired Ventures, Mr. Anker had signed on 14 charter advertisers for online site HotWired, including names that online companies still would salivate to do business with: AT&T Corp., Club Med, MCI and Volvo.

It was such a small industry back then that most of the ads were created across the hall at interactive shop Organic Online in an old warehouse building by the on-ramp to the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Mr. Anker left in 1997, landing at venture-capital firm August Capital in April 1998. HotWired, which long ago lost its Web-borne cachet, was sold to also-ran portal Lycos in 1999. Though times have changed, Mr. Anker, now 36, has changed his attitudes little about online marketing. He still believes in big brands and big Web ambitions.

What the industry most needs, he says, is a return to basics. But not necessarily to the basics he established at HotWired in 1994, when online-only content was the rule and surfers clicked on ads simply because it was possible. Instead, he looks to older basics that hark back to traditional media, ideas that were somehow abandoned during the Internet gold rush.

Mr. Anker hopes people finally are moving away from the idea that more eyeballs seeing more ads equals more success. The industry-wide obsession with traffic "was a big frustration of ours," he says. "People refused to believe that fewer customers who spent more were worth more than lots of customers who bought little or nothing."

Clues to Mr. Anker's view of the online future come from where he is putting August Capital's money. One place is Topica, a maker of e-mail publishing tools that help companies serve niche markets. Another is Emode, a provider of fun, online assessment tests that purport to help people learn about themselves and help marketers target them.

Mr. Anker's interest in targeting companies doesn't mean he sees the Internet's future only as a direct-response medium. The memory of that blue-chip advertiser list at HotWired lingers. "This is a branding medium as much as it is a direct-contact medium," he says.

While that thinking is unchanged, he says he wouldn't launch HotWired today. Instead, he would look to create properties in a way "that uses one to leverage the other."

Almost no popular Web property is safe, he believes, even giant Yahoo! "Yahoo!'s gotta get bought," he says.

But what if Yahoo! were to move to a subscription model? Wouldn't that help? Mr. Anker replies: "Shit. I'll go to Lycos."

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