At a time when the Internet is referred to in revolutionary terms, Kevin Rowe, president of Eagle River Interactive in Chicago, has ample enthusiasm--tempered with some caution. "I really think the Internet has a chance to do to the world what the phone did," says Rowe, 39. But, he cautions, "Until there's a reason to [go online], people aren't going to change their behavior."
A finance major and marketing/advertising minor at the University of Illinois, and a graduate of Northwestern's J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Rowe was an associate partner with Andersen Consulting and was vice president and general manager of the Midwest region of MCI Systemhouse, a systems integrator for large companies, before joining Eagle River in December 1996.
The firm became wholly-owned by Omnicom Group in August 1997 and is agency of record for Sprint. Other clients include Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Sony, Kodak and Intuit. Rowe expects Eagle River to expand its current operations in New York and France, and perhaps open outposts elsewhere in Europe, Asia and Latin America, by the end of this year.
Indeed, Rowe spends much of his time these days thinking about the possibilities for marketers from around the world on the Internet. Rowe expects businesses to expand their reach globally this year, but he adds the key to successful international business is actually localization.
"You go live on the Web and [more than] 130 countries can see what you've got out there. You have to think about that," he says. "But effective marketing is not selling everything in English and not from an [American] cultural bent.
"It's a bad place to be because you're going to limit what you can do," he explains. "What do [foreigners] care what the weather is in the U.S.?" Instead, he says, companies should create unique content on parts of their sites to appeal to citizens of other countries.
Rowe also jumps into the debate concerning whether the Net is suited to becoming either an entertainment or commerce medium. He believes there's no need to differentiate. "I think the two can be blended together. It's no different than what retailers are trying to do in their stores," he says.
And as the medium moves forward, Rowe's concerns continue to evolve.
"In my mind, we haven't even scratched the surface of what it's going to be," he says of the Internet's scale. "We're not even a thumbnail into a barrel."