Thursday, April 24, 2008

Don't underestimate Mark Kingdon's Second Life

I sensed some surprise earlier this week when Organic CEO Mark Kingdon said he was jumping to Second Life. And some negativity too. Wrote AgencySpy: "Unfortunately, joining Linden Labs [owner of Second Life] at this point is like joining Napster after Metallica finished sodomizing them a few years back -- the crest of the wave for Second Life was at least two years ago and there is nowhere to go but the inevitable fade to oblivion that is a couple of years off." That could be true, but there's good reason not to underestimate him in this situation. First, he is very passionate about social media and was very articulate about what it meant for advertisers early on. Second, and more importantly, most people don't remember what he inherited when he joined Organic, but since I was there—on my way out the door, granted—I do. It was December 2000. We'd laid off 25 percent of the shop's 1200 employees only days earlier, and he comes in as CEO. (Lucky me, I had accepted a job with Ad Age, keeping the wolf from the door for a little longer.) Within the next year, the shop went down to roughly 200 people. Hard decisions had to be made. Most offices had to be closed. Remaining clients placated. And though Omnicom hovering in the background helped, the shop at that point was a publicly-traded dot-bomb flirting with extinction. Obviously, that didn't happen. Not only did Kingdon help get Organic through that, but he stayed on for more than seven years. It's an outcome no one would have predicted, and yet it happened.

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