It's true: America sent its share of bohemian youth to Eastern Europe after the fall of communism.
Advertising Age keeps bumping into young Americans who have not only "been there" but who have made a difference. These expatriates in marketing, media and advertising-from publisher to account manager-have one thing in common: All have had opportunities they would not have had at their age in the States.
Not all who came found the perfect career fit. But for those who stumbled on the right opportunity, the rewards are many.
They eat out more and travel extensively in East and West Europe, Africa and the Middle East. But the California lifestyle ideal has fallen by the wayside. Budapest-based media service provider Michael Simon summed it up: "In my mind, I'm a bike rider and wind surfer."
A big part of these success stories is the lack of trained local manpower. Prior to the fall of communism, advertising, public relations and publicity companies in the Western sense did not exist in these countries. And media were overstaffed and highly censored.
The young Americans have succeeded in this climate because they were well educated and had a fundamental understanding of capitalism from growing up in the U.S.
BUDAPEST-He's betting his company, EPS Hungary Kft., on the premise that information software is the product of the near future.
But Michael Simon's was a far from informed decision when he accepted blind placement in a Hungarian company by MBA Enterprise Corps, a volunteer organization that sends MBA graduates to the world's emerging markets as consultants.
Plans were for the electronic engineer-cum-MBA to be in Budapest for exactly "11 months and 30 days," then head back to Chicago. But since his electronic publishing services company went profitable in its fourth month, the 30-year-old said, he may always have "one foot in Hungary."
EPS specializes in turning other people's data into user-friendly reference tools. Its first product, introduced in June, catalogs news articles, pictures and lists from a consortium of Hungarian information providers.
In September, EPS took the service onto the Internet. Mr. Simon said EPS is adapting it to regional business journals worldwide.
The MBA Corps placed Mr. Simon in a promising entrepreneurial office equipment and telecommunications company that unexpectedly went bankrupt five months into the assignment. When the parent company's creditors moved in, his division was spun off, and Mr. Simon was asked to head it.
On Dec. 31, 1994, after two years, Mr. Simon left to found EPS.
BUDAPEST-Sometimes it takes dancing on a conference room table to get your point across, as New Jersey native Judith Evers demonstrated when she was an account exec on Coca-Cola at McCann-Erickson Budapest.
The young Hungarian account group didn't understand what Coke was about, said Ms. Evers. So when she started working on the account in 1992, she did everything from dancing on tables to blaring Bon Jovi in the office to create excitement.
Now working on the client side with Virginia-based telecommunications company Global TeleSystems, Ms. Evers, 30, is a shade more subtle. But as GTS marketing manager for Central Europe, she's still pushing Central Europeans to "dare to do something different" in marketing.
Ms. Evers was placed with McCann-Erickson Budapest through MBA Enterprise Corps.
Within eight months, she was named group account director working on Coca-Cola, Eskimo ice cream and local mobile telephone company Pannon GSM. She joined GTS in late 1994.
WARSAW-With $300, Stephen O'Connor gave himself a month to find a job in Budapest. He found three the first week.
"I wanted to go to Europe," said the former commercial real estate broker. So he booked a flight to Budapest because it seemed like an easy city for a job search.
Once in Hungary, he took a job as a researcher. In December 1993, he and two others bought the Budapest Business Journal. Mr. O'Connor, 32; computer salesman Douglas Wheeler, 26; and business consultant Thompson Barnhardt, 31, combined their money and business expertise and founded New World Publishing Kft.
The Budapest Business Journal already had the reputation as an important English-language source for business news, but it lacked advertising. By year's end, the trio had tripled the journal's revenue and started a sister publication in Poland.
"Hungary was our anchor of success" to launch out into new markets, said Mr. O'Connor.
PRAGUE-The day before he talked to Advertising Age, Boston native Scott Sanborn, 26, was promoted to senior account manager at Lintas Prague on Johnson & Johnson and Unilever.
Now the Boston native is one of the most senior account people in this top 10 agency, but when he was hired in 1993 he had minimal marketing training and almost no experience in advertising. Nor could he speak the language.
He arrived in Prague in 1992 after a U.S.-based equipment company gave him a one-year assignment setting up distribution in Europe. When the year was over, "It was move to Detroit or do something else in Prague. It took three days to get a new job here," he said.
On the subject of what his life would be like if he had returned, Mr. Sanborn is uncharacteristically somber. "I'd be more of a lost soul in the States. More hesitant to say, `Screw this. I'll try something else.' I've done that twice here."
PRAGUE-At 27, Lisa Frankenberg was one of the first Americans to arrive in Prague after Czechoslovakia opened its borders. Since a break before law school sounded good, she bought a one-way ticket to Europe and a Eurail pass. "I planned on spending a couple of months in Europe, then going to Israel to work on a kibbutz," she explained.
But she became sidetracked when she ran into five other University of Santa Barbara graduates in Prague. Soon after, the group produced Prognosis, one of the first English-language newspapers in the former Eastern bloc.
But Ms. Frankenberg, the bi-monthly newspaper's ad manager, found advertisers were more interested in the burgeoning business community than the cash-strapped backpackers buying Prognosis. She tried to steer the group to a more business-oriented perspective. "I knew they wouldn't survive the way they were going, so after some soul-searching, I resigned," she said.
In spring 1991, she wrote a business plan, found an investor and, in October 1991, put out the first issue of the Prague Post.
Four years later, weekly Prague Post has 50 full-time staff members and 400 part-time and free-lance staffers.
Ms. Frankenberg sees Prague as an opportunity. "I started my own company at 23 and I learned on the job. I doubt I would have been the publisher of my own newspaper if I had stayed in the U.S. But people rise to the occasion. That's what happened to me. And the opportunities are greater here," she said.
Another opportunity in Prague has been working with the Jewish community organization Bejt Praha.
PRAGUE-Since the demise of Prognosis earlier this year, Greg Turner, 31, likes to say that his is the oldest English-language publication in the Czech Republic.
He arrived in October 1990, and launched the fortnightly Czech & Slovak Investment News in May 1991. He is the owner, publisher, editor and main writer of the newsletter, which is directed at Prague's growing business community and foreign investors.
His background is varied, but it does not include publishing.
Why did he move to Prague? "I came to Prague to do something different. I was living in D.C. before, working for a commercial real estate firm, and it was not that exciting."
Investment news may not be a spicy subject either, he said, but "the editorial scope is quite broad. We've even written about sexual harassment in the workplace and talked about the laws that apply in these markets, and looked at the `glass ceiling' for Czech women."
Like most of Prague's English-speaking community, Mr. Turner, who grew up in Arizona, has mixed feelings about remaining in the Czech Republic. "I'm one of the old-timers now. I've been here nearly five years....But I have no idea where I should go. I've got my own business here, and I think America has gotten pretty strange."
MOSCOW-Steven Kydd's ca- reer has taken him from Maine to Moscow in a few short years.
For now, Mr. Kydd, 26, is project manager at the newly expanded Moscow office of U.S.-based marketing research and consulting firm Macro International.
"There is a large amount of data in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but everybody knows you need to go elsewhere if you're serious about keeping in touch."
While still in college at the University of Maine, Mr. Kydd caught a flight to France for an exchange program. He came back hooked on world business, and later went to Germany to work in the Treuhandanstalt privatizing the former East German industries.
Mr. Kydd sees himself working back in the U.S., but only in a position linked with international business, and only after at least another decade or so, when the local business is developed to a point where expat managers are no longer needed.
Contributing: Normandy Madden in Prague and Steve Gutterman in Moscow.