EDITORIAL: Do I Hear Trumpets?

Surely, the Antichrist walks among us. What other explanation can there be for e-mail list development firm NetCreations chairwoman and CEO Rosalind Resnick agreeing to sell her company to online ad services giant DoubleClick?

In the interest of disclosure, DoubleClick and NetCreations are two of iMarketing News’ biggest advertisers, and several years ago I did a short freelance stint for Resnick.

Potential conflicts of interest aside, for those who don’t know the players involved, Resnick has loudly and repeatedly compared DoubleClick to “Star Wars” villain Darth Vader. And reportedly, on a personal level, Resnick and DoubleClick co-founder and chairman Kevin O’Connor have never had great affection for one another.

But they have been reportedly discussing this deal for quite a while. And a punishing market can turn enemies into friends fast.

Recently, Resnick watched her stock — which rose to nearly $70 after its November 1999 initial public offering — plummet to $11 per share on news that NetCreations would report lower than expected third-quarter earnings, a stomach-wrenching ride that certainly only one who has taken it can understand.

Meanwhile, for more than a year DoubleClick has been trying to build an e-mail offering to rival NetCreations. But NetCreations had a head start by several critical years.

Make no mistake, if DoubleClick could have built a NetCreations-type business on its own, it would have let Resnick twist in the wind. But building an opt-in e-mail list is an arduous process.

NetCreations also brings with it a sales force made up of people who understand the list business, something else DoubleClick for all its clout lacks.

So to most observers, including this one, it looks like Resnick punched the panic button. Too soon for too little? Who can say for sure?

But beyond the numbers spelled out beginning on page 1, there are intangibles that must not be ignored:

First, Resnick has the respect of privacy advocates, something DoubleClick has seriously lacked ever since it attempted to marry information from the Abacus co-op database of offline catalog buying behavior with Internet users’ clickstream behavior.

With Resnick on staff, DoubleClick may gain credibility in the community that has already shown it can do the greatest damage to DoubleClick’s profiling efforts.

Second, Resnick brings another key trait to DoubleClick: an ability to work the press.

A former reporter for The Miami Herald, Resnick understands the press-relations game like few others. Usually, when a source tells a reporter he or she was once a “journalist,” it’s done in the spirit of “not only can I do the job I currently hold, but I also can do yours, too.”

Resnick, however, consistently demonstrates empathy. She’ll call with a little tidbit here and there. … Sure, it’s usually dirt on a competitor, and always 100 percent self-serving, but so what? It’s often information that helps craft the right questions — half a reporter’s battle.

The way DoubleClick executives bungled the Abacus controversy with the press is evidence they can use Resnick’s expertise. But will they?

It’s a safe bet they won’t.

DoubleClick is too big, and as such needs to control the message. Resnick’s guerrilla press tactics probably will be seen as more of a trait in need of a muzzle than an asset.

What will be telling is whether once inside DoubleClick, Resnick speaks directly and freely to the press or not.

On a somewhat related note, it’s also extremely difficult to imagine Resnick has much credibility left with NetCreations managers, a group of people who put in hellishly long hours only to see their CEO sell the company’s soul.

From this perspective, it looks like NetCreations’ founder gave up an awful lot, and DoubleClick got a fire sale of a deal.

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