If Phineas Taylor Barnum were alive today, he might learn a trick or two from Michael Tchong. As editor and CEO of San Francisco-based Iconocast.com, Tchong's enthusiastic promotion of e-marketing has lured even the most diehard skeptic to the charms of the Net.
For his second annual Web Attack! confab, which begins on Thursday at New York's Roseland Ballroom, Tchong has assembled a roster of in-the-know digirati. But those who expect a low-key industry affair will be in for a surprise. At last year's inaugural Web Attack! at Fort Mason in San Francisco, 1,000 attendees witnessed b-ball bad-boy Dennis Rodman's appearance on a Harley, in-your-face lectures on creative marketing and posters depicting Godzilla leaving more than his heart in the City by the Bay.
This year's promo features King Kong venting his rage on the Big Apple while 12 Broadway dancers, singers and complete orchestra are slated to entertain more than 1,400 attendees, according to Tchong.
With many dot-coms scrambling to justify lofty business plans, IQ queried Tchong's state of mind on e-commerce.
WHAT CAN E-MARKETERS LEARN AT THIS WEEK's event IN NEW YORK?
"With Web Attack! we want to clearly send the message, in light of the stock market, that it will become even more important that marketers realize that they need to push the pedal to the metal in regards to creative marketing."
AREN'T MANY DOT-COMS RUNNING ON EMPTY?
"I don't think so. Last year about 4,000 dot-coms got funded to the tune of some $21 billion. We haven't seen the end of that money yet. Deals are still coming down the pike and marketing is going to continue unabated. There will be the occasional cutting back but that's the vagaries of any market."
YOUR MESSAGE SEEMS TO BE: CREATIVE, CREATIVE, CREATIVE. CAN'T ADS BECOME TOO CREATIVE?
"Yes, absolutely. People will push boundaries. Some will go overboard; others won't. Online marketers realize that return on investment is the religion they need to follow. And whether or not you're creative, the bottom line is determining how well your ad does."
OF THE 4,000 STARTUPS, AREN'T THERE A LOT OF FLAWED BUSINESS PLANS?
"There is so much pressure on venture capitalists to make sure that they get a piece of the action, that you're going to end up with deals that never should have been funded in the first place. I get people coming into my office everyday with business plans that have not been thought out. In response, I tell them to get a life. On the other hand, you can't prevent these people from giving the business a bad name because they go out and crash and burn and attract attention."
Entering last month's annual Cannes International Film Festival, there were the usual press rumblings about the dearth of A-list celebs in attendance.
For every Tom Hanks, there were too many Jean-Claude Van Dammes, Sharon Stones and Sylvester Stallones looking for redemption on the French Riviera.
The Victoria's Secret Cannes 2000 fashion show and Webcast, which doubled as a fundraiser for the American Foundation for AIDS Research and was watched by nearly 2 million unique users, quickly quieted some naysayers when the practically naked Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Stephanie Seymour, among other mannequins, sashayed down the catwalk.
While the combination of lingerie and supermodels isn't new to the fashion runway, nearly 95 percent of online sales of the Columbus, Ohio-based company are intimate apparel, according to Ken Weil, vice president of new media at Victoria's Secret.
Hence, the Webcast of the lingerie show.
Weil said there was no better way to reinforce Victoria's Net presence than to hold a fashion show during one of the most glamorous film festivals in the world.
"While we're well known in the U.S., we do sell about 5 percent of catalog sales outside the U.S., and up to 9 percent of Internet sales," said Weil. "This was a great way to to globally introduce our brand while maintaining our European fashion roots."
With 10-times the site capacity, increased bandwidth and improved e-commerce options, Weil said this year's Internet show was technically superior to last year's inaugural event.
"There was definitely a confluence of fashion, e-commerce and entertainment," he said.
KING OF COMEDY
When several California state assemblymen were in need of jokes for a roast of Gov. Gray Davis, they called Mark Jonathon Davis. When NBC TV wanted a jingle for its summer reruns, it, too, called Davis. And when Nick at Nite needed a tune to promote I Dream of Genie, it called Davis.
Whether it's an ad campaign, catchy slogan for a Web site or clever name for a theme park attraction, now anyone can request humor or a tune from the 34-year-old self-proclaimed King of Comedy's archive of talent at the Los Angeles-based www.creativeking.com.
Davis said that most good ideas usually write themselves into a joke or tune with little effort on his part. Yet, for the most part, being able to "think out of the box" has its limits.
"Now, people are calling looking for someone who 'thinks out of thinking out of the box,' " he said.
For example, when Davis was called to create a fictional lounge singer named Johnny Chimes for NBC, he thought he'd only have to pen a few lyrics. Soon he developed the entire persona of a cheesy, swinging, lounge singer.
"It was fairly successful, so we must have been doing something right," he said.
ISwag.com, the Las Vegas-based e-commerce application service provider of business-to-business solutions for brand managers and merchandise distributors, recently surveyed more than 400 people nationwide and discovered, among other things, that 37 percent of those questioned who have coffee mugs with company logos have been promoted within the past six months compared to 8 percent who did not (and weren't). A look at some of the other results:
Quick as a Mouse: Employees using mouse pads with a company logo worked fewer hours per week than those using other pads.
Fashion Pays: 17 percent of employees who wear a jacket with a company logo earn $15,000 more than those sporting no logo.
I'm Doing Work at Home: 41 percent of employees who use a pen with a company logo admitted to taking office supplies home for personal use compared to 6 percent who use a generic pen and rip off the supply room.
Loyal Five Days a Week: Only 2 percent of employees who own something with their company logo use it on weekends.
Office vs. Cubicle: Employees with a company logo-ed organizer are four-times more likely to have their own office compared to those with a generic organizer.
Logo Brown-Nosers: Lower-level employees were three times more likely to own company
logo-ed swag than senior executives