Media X: Kid Nation

The most irritating meeting I ever attended was in 1999, when I was doing Initiative's public relations, and the agency's top executives were ordered into a conference room to hear a presentation by our newest corporate siblings, digital shop Zentropy Partners. I tagged along.

The young firm was one of the "It Girls" of Internet marketing at the time, and the Zentropy boys were cocky. They were smooth. They had movie studios on their roster. They were barely old enough to shave. I sat back and prepared to enjoy a typically over-the-top presentation on The New Media Age.

Instead, we got more than an hour of buzzwords and vapor ware. The Web sites Zentropy designed were proficient, but hardly spectacular. Even the video they showed at the presentation was technically fine, but the writing was pedestrian and the imagery ho-hum. Lots of gleaming and streaming and boasting about how the Internet was taking over.

Well, in retrospect, maybe it was a typically over-the-top presentation on The New Media Age. And you couldn't fault the boys for wanting to feed at one of those exhilaratingly munificent holding-company troughs. But was even just a little substance out of the question?



Guess so.

Zentropy morphed into an umbrella for Interpublic's digital offerings, and was subsumed into MRM Partners Worldwide in 2001, where there was at least some adult supervision. But that vapid presentation always struck me as the perfect example of how ridiculous our worship of the digerati can be. That is, it did until last Friday.

That was the day that the 24-year-old Web wunderkind who redesigned all our sites at my day job at UCLA got another gig. I was going to use his departure as the basis for a column on the new masters of the universe--the heirs to Zentropy Partners. But then the wunderkind shared the email his new boss sent out about his arrival. Stop by and say hello to the wunderkind, the new boss wrote. He'll be sitting in "cubicle 202G-3."

So much for world domination. When did Dilbert go digital? True, the new job was also in the public, not private, sector--but no matter. This was enormously reassuring. To me, "cubicle 202G-3" was code for: "being an online wunderkind no longer assures you riches and the right to sneer at your elders."

How refreshing. Perhaps the wielders of new technology and the companies they spawn are finally being seen for what they truly are--valuable communications assets when properly used and not the next step in the evolution of mankind. Maybe we're all coming to our senses, and there will be no more need to force accomplished executives to waste time in conference rooms listening to frat boys boast about their i-brilliance.

As for our departing wunderkind, I bought him a farewell lunch at the Gardens on Glendon, and advised him to make a deal with Interpublic as soon as possible.

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