That Dress... no, Katrina Garnett's, not Monica's...

Rohit Khare (
Mon, 26 Oct 1998 21:59:22 -0800

It still bothers me... I know the real goal wasn't even to sell Enterprise
Software -- whatever that is -- but to sell *stock*: to get the company on
potential IPO subscribers' radar screens. So it works, and as an economist I
have to favor that, and politically, Katrina's right, too: it is a positive
statement about gender. I guess what annoys me is that this is *supposed* to
be a business about stuff, not people :-)

Well, OK, I know that's wrong, too. EVERYTHING is a people business. So I'm
just at a flat out loss to say why that campaign of hers bothers me. At
least it got us the wonderful shot back across the bow from Junglee, right
before Amazon bought them out... Go visit both URLs for the photos:


Naked Business
June 23, 1998
By Tia O'Brien

My niece and I are sitting here looking at an ad in the New York Times
Magazine. The question is ... what's on sale? We're not sure.
Let's just say that our focus is drawn to CEO Katrina Garnett's plunging
neckline, not to the tiny, tiny print mentioning the enterprise application
products of her startup, CrossWorlds Software Inc.
All I see when I look at this full-page color ad are the words "Trail
Blazer" and Garnett's taut, buffed body looking mighty sexy in a skimpy
black cocktail-style dress. With that earnest look and her cocktail dress,
Garnett could be hawking Bombay gin.
But I'm not a techie, so in the name of fairness, I handed the ad to my
niece, a generation X-er who's worked in the Valley for several years. She's
puzzled. "Is this an ad?" she asks. "It looks more like an article about the
top 50 most beautiful people in the business world. My instinct is to just
flip past her and see if there's anyone I know."
Is this the response CrossWorlds is looking for? CEO as Babe? Confusion over
whether this is an advertisement or a "beautiful people" spread?
If I was a CrossWorlds investor, I'd question dropping $1 million to market
CrossWorlds a la Garnett's body in such publications as Forbes, Fortune, the
political magazine George, Vanity Fair and even Variety. (The price tag
includes a companion TV campaign on CNBC that features Garnett in attire
other than the cocktail dress.)
But Garnett is thrilled. "It's been way more successful than I dreamed.
Every customer I've called on has seen it!" boasts Garnett as we chat on the
She can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. For the record, she
says, "I have almost no cleavage. Maybe it shows how parochial the high-tech
industry is."
She gives her husband, Venrock Associates venture capitalist Terence
Garnett, chairman of CrossWorlds' board, full credit for dreaming up this
unusual branding campaign. "A lot of the CIOs I work with are women. Most of
them like to buy a relationship, not just software. I'm putting a face on
the company."
That's one way to put it.
So, if this is just one more effort to promote a dull technology company by
turning the CEO into a personality--think Bill Gates--then why is she the
butt of so many Valley jokes and critics who predict the campaign won't
boost sales for the startup?
Suggests Garnett, "Maybe they're jealous. There are a lot of people who
can't wear that dress. Here I am showing that you don't have to look a
certain way to be in technology, showing myself as a woman, and I am getting
"Who suggested you wear the dress?" I ask, figuring she'll blame the choice
on some insensitive, unenlightened marketing guy.
"I chose the dress myself," says the CEO, who takes pride in her reputation
as a feminist--she's founded an organization that encourages young girls to
pursue high-tech careers. "I wear that dress often. It's a statement about
who I am."
Well, that's not exactly the same image Garnett was trying to project just
one year ago.
Check the news clips.
In June of 1997, Garnett was studiously cultivating an image as an
ambitious, serious, polished executive. When her startup was picked for a
magazine's 20 "coolest" companies list, she refused a photographer's request
to pose in a bubble bath, on her bed or by the pool.
Garnett explained her rationale in an UPSIDE story: "I said, 'We're going to
be using this article for a long, long time, and that's not something we
want to hand out to CEOs that we want to take me seriously."
She also told the UPSIDE reporter why she wears unrevealing Armani pants
suits: "They're more androgynous. I don't want to be overly noticed in the
executive meetings. I want to fit in like a man."
So what's with the cocktail dress? Garnett spells out her dilemma: They need
to make CrossWorlds stand out among its competitors.
"What else should I have been wearing that would have provoked this much
interest?" she asks me. "Standing there with golf clubs wouldn't be quite
the same thing."
Before selecting the photo for the ad--taken by celebrity photographer
Richard Avedon--they tested several shots with employees of Crossworlds.
"People said this one looked the most corporate, confident, powerful and not
too sexy."
I'd love a look at the rejects.
This shot was Garnett's first choice. "I'm not smiling--other photos show me
smiling. There are too many teeth," notes Garnett, who sounds a bit
Isn't Garnett just a tad concerned about sending the wrong message to young
women who want to pursue careers based on their brains, not Barbie Doll
bodies? She acknowledges receiving one angry email from a woman who accused
her of failing as a role model.
"But I've received hundreds of other emails saying, "It's great to see a
woman who's not trying to fit the corporate mold."
The bottom line here is simple: Will this branding campaign boost
CrossWorld's sales? The answer is no--if people don't even bother reading
the small column of minuscule type next to the photo and learn that
CrossWorlds sells enterprise software.
I go back to my own focus group--my niece (we'll call her Betty so she still
can have lunch in the Valley)--and ask her to take another look at the
The Harvard grad pulls up a chair. "My first thought is, 'Where did she get
her dress? Where does she work out?' Seriously."
I gently explain that apparently this is not supposed to be about Garnett's
physical assets, but about her highly respected startup. I direct her to the
fine print.
She starts reading down a thin side column of vital statistics, stuff like
"Age: younger than Bill Gates, older than Michael Dell."
"Birthplace: Australia's gold coast."
"Background: Ten years on the firing line at Oracle and Sybase."
"Recent Thrill: Flying 360 degree inverted loops in an SF260 Marchetti."
"Mission: Build software applications that unite the operations of global
Betty chuckles, "Well, that's about as vague as it gets. I can name five
companies trying to do the same thing. And they're not startups."
She skims the rest of the text. "It doesn't say if she's got a family, and
you can't tell if she's married since her hands are behind her back and you
can't see a ring." (Garnett's the proud mother of a young daughter and son,
but hell, toddlers and sex appeal just don't mix.)
Maybe both Betty and I are too nurtured on women's liberation to see the
light. But maybe young girls will see this picture and say, "I want to be a
CEO, too."
So I show the ad to my 8-year-old daughter. She starts giggling, "Her
boobies are showing! Who is she?" When I explain that Katrina Garnett is an
important businesswoman who's trying to sell computer products, my daughter
looks thoughtful and suggests, "She should put pictures of computers on her
dress. Then people will understand what she is selling."

Naked Business
No Wonderbra for This Cross-Dressing CEO
July 22, 1998
By Tia O'Brien

"Now bring your eyes to me, press your lips together and smile!" coaches the
UPSIDE photographer.

"I don't know why the Junglee board doesn't take me seriously."CEO Rakesh
Mathur flashes his most coquettish look. And what a look.

If I might say so, Mathur, CEO of Junglee Corp., looks quite fetching in his
black cocktail dress. Instead of breasts, tufts of chest hair peek out from
his plunging neckline. Thankfully, the picture cuts off at his hem line,
hiding Mathur's muscular, hairy calves, argyle socks and topsiders.

"This is a bold move, yes! But we are trying to separate ourselves from the
pack," explains Mathur as he thrusts out his chest to reveal a bit more

"I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille."

A Silicon Valley CEO doing whatever it takes to win recognition for
astartup? Where have I heard that before? Technology developed by
two-year-old Junglee is already touted for its ability to turn a jungle of
Web sites into a superstore so users can comparison shop online. But the
competition is brutal.

And so when Mathur and his scrappy staff at Junglee spotted CEO Katrina
Garnett in the New York Times(and Forbes, Fortune, the New Yorker and Worth)
advertising CrossWorlds, her enterprise software startup, in a revealing
black cocktail dress, they knew she was onto something. (Her logic--if
that's the right word--is explained in "CEO in the Flesh.")

"Sure, Mr. Jobs, I'll lend you my dress. Anything to help the Apple."To
date, no other CEO in Silicon Valley has tried to boost sales and corporate
recognition by selling software with breast power. Industry sources tell me
that Garnett's ad blitz, costing something on the order of $1 million, has
infuriated some board members, who can't see how a full-page glamour shot of
Australia native Garnett will help the company. The only mention of
CrossWorlds is in tiny print. The board was kept in the dark about this
unusual marketing strategy.

Details, details. When brilliance strikes, who needs a board for approval? I
doubt that Mathur, a native of India, got a nod from Junglee's board for his
little excursion into cross-dressing. Lacking a major advertising budget for
this promotional stunt, aides asked UPSIDE if he could appear in this
column, trying to out-dress Garnett.

"CEO on the go."

Mathur admits he was a smidge hesitant when the stunt was first pitched to
him. But in the spirit of all great innovators, and with an eye on Garnett's
"Trail Blazer" ad, Mathur countered with a dare of his own: If he could use
Junglee shopping software online and assemble a Garnett look-alike outfit,
he would model the dress.

"We took her idea to the next level. We related it to our product," says
Mathur, pursing his lips for his best "naughty" look. "If I can put together
a glamour outfit on the Net, then online shopping is ready for consumers."

Understand the distinction here. Garnett was hawking a name and her bod.
Mathur is attracting attention to his product.