Who, Me? I'm Not Addicted to My BlackBerry

No Escape: Total Access Part of Job

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Agency executives sleep with them, drive with them, even vacation with them. Not husbands or wives -- these significant others are neither human nor even mammalian. While they're "personal" and an "assistant," these companions are made of plastic and metal.
It's hard for ad-industry globetrotters to imagine life without BlackBerries, Treos and other personal digital assistants. When they finally rest after a long flight, their roommates are more likely to buzz than snore.

"My BlackBerry goes beside my pillow," said Colleen DeCourcy, chief experience officer at JWT New York. "It is my alarm clock. It is my source of news. It is my calendar and my way of knowing what's happening with the two people who run my world -- my daughter and my assistant."

Jon Kamen, chairman-CEO of Radical Media, gives additional credit where credit is due -- to RIM's digital device. "It would be insanely unfair if I didn't give my BlackBerry the appropriate credit for being the most productive tool in my arsenal," he said. "It seems like I'm permanently stuck on planes or meetings ... but I'm thumbing my way through countless crises and deftly copying all victims with the click of a wheel."

Even on vacation
It doesn't take grueling business trips to convince ad executives of the usefulness of their PDAs. John Osborn, CEO of BBDO New York, says he's more efficient thanks to his Motorola PDA Moto Q, which he uses during his daily Manhattan-to-Connecticut train commute: "Say I need to approve a print ad for our client FedEx. I can look at it and send in my OK in real time using my handheld. It saves someone a two-hour wait for my response."

Aaron Reitkopf, group president at Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, rarely uses landlines, even when one is within easy reach, "so in between my next office meeting or client appointment, I can call or write."

PDAs, like the executives they serve, also get to go on vacation. Responding to this reporter's e-mail query, Robin Steinberg, senior VP-director of print investment and activation at MediaVest, praised her BlackBerry for the flexibility it brings as well as for helping "manage, operate and perform at a speed like never before." Ms. Steinberg was responding via her BlackBerry atop Buttermilk Mountain near Aspen, Colo., while on vacation.

Average Joe Blackberry
Certainly these executives fit the profile of today's typical wireless-internet users.

Source: December survey of 2,373 adults by the Pew Internet & American Life Project
A survey of 2,373 adults conducted last December for the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that one in eight, or 13% of internet users, has a PDA that wirelessly connects to the internet. A little more than half (56%) of wireless users are men, with the greatest percentage (49%) between the ages of 30 and 49. Most are white, have a college education and have an income exceeding $75,000.

"Some of them at least get hooked on the devices to keep in touch with family and friends," said John Horrigan, associate director-research, who oversaw the Pew report.

JWT's Ms. DeCourcy likens PDAs' cultural importance to TV's back in the 1950s. "TV was such a facilitator then. It brought news; living-room furniture was organized around it," she said. "My life is similarly shaped around my BlackBerry."

Symptom of ad industry?
Many executives believe constant accessibility is part and parcel of working in the ad industry. "People don't have much patience for a delay," Mr. Osborn said.

In the opinion of Kirshenbaum's Mr. Reitkopf, mobile devices are a managerial godsend, and one is not enough. He keeps three with him at all times -- two phone-integrated BlackBerries, each with a different service provider so he's always covered, and a third for testing new games and TV-phone features.

Mr. Reitkopf isn't stuck in his office behind a desk. With 350 employees to oversee, "I manage by walking around," he said. All e-mails are responded to via BlackBerry, and large files containing graphics or even PowerPoint that need to be printed are forwarded to his assistant.
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