Marco Jo Rodzynek was certainly one of the most energetic investors in the TMT sector during his 12 years at Lehman.  Now, reborn as the founder of Noah Advisors, his energy seemed redoubled as he hosted a conference at the Park Lane Hilton on the internet investment scene in Europe.  Seven cross border players presented, followed by seven “customer-focussed winners”, followed by 11 investors of various types, all washed down with 15 “emerging European Internet Players”.  OK , no one spoke for very long, but they all had their slides and videos, we all wanted to ask some questions, and since we entered in heavy rain and left after dark having experienced all this diversity, allusions to the Ark and a future of advising on post- recessionary floods were well in order.  “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, he said there’s no more water, it’s the fire next time …”

I have a feeling that I may return to Marco’s picks (probably once a week for the next six months) but here and now it is worth noting a few trends exemplified by his contributors.  For example, you can do wonders by enabling distress purchases in a new and easier context (the tyre distributor Delticom is a classic example).  This company has revenues of €201 million and EBITDA of €15.3 million – there is margin in making distress pain-free.  Private club shopping is big business for impressive operators like Brands4friends, which uses social media techniques to create Germany’s largest shopping club, a success that BuyVip will seek to emulate from its Spanish base.  Local search and local advertising also featured (, as did software downloads, mobile phone developments, gold dealing and football  … and so much else .

More of that anon.  For now, it is worth noting that the German and Scandinavian sectors look very strong, that few things here seemed much tarnished by recession, and that the services sector online seems to be booming with entities that challenge comparisons with their traditional US peers and rivals.  And a long and happy future to Noah, for taking in a diverse crowd on a wet day, feeding them and providing a thoroughly educational entertainment.

I have been researching things to put in the download section of this site, and found in the Digital Attic (aka Google) an article I wrote in 1995 predicting the Death of Advertising.  Now that we are seeing it happen, in print and in less 0bvious ways in online services, this may seem clever stuff (not just a Worlock but a Wizard too!).  Pause, though, gentle reader: in 25 years of writing about the digital marketplace I have predicted the Death of most things, so I am bound to get a few right – you should see me on the death of the novel, the death of copyright etc etc.

However, in 1995 I did not need to say what happened next, since no-one at all believed the first assertion.  Now a great many go as far as the first claim, but then we all stop dead.  What next?  For a time it seemed as if lead generation would fill the revenue gap.  Maybe the function of promotions and listings is simply to produce a qualified marketplace. Well, arguably it is, but people like Jeff Jarvis seem to be arguing that if we produce real community in the network then community members will sell to each other – and far more effectively than current advertisers.  So advertising and sponsorship become pure exercises in brand promotion, and are required a lot less.  If we really want to sell our organic muesli to the health conscious middle class, we have to find where they gather en masse, and then promote the idea by product placement or community agencies.

But first we need to know where our brand resonates and in what communities.  Look at, and I think you are looking at a prototype for doing just that.  Then there is something called the 33Across SocialDNA platform: the idea here is that you identify existing customers and then “identify and anonymously target people with strong real world connections” to those existing customers.  The science of risk management turns inside out to become the art of customer identification.  European privacy commissars shudder, but check out an interesting article on this company at  And then look at LotameCC , the oldest player in this game (founded in 2006), which captures social media data like blog postings to create what they are kind enough to call “the data driven future of advertising”.

And that is the issue really – the things we are fiddling around with currently change advertising by narrowing its focus, making it less obtrusive, making it more predictive, getting better results with less effort/spend  etc.  And what we want is not advertising, but a way of getting sales messages to people who want those messages.  Something tells me that we are not there yet, but meanwhile the efforts being made are deeply interesting.

keep looking »