Bubbles, blunders and opening for business

By Peter Ballard @Ballyfool

2002 was the year that Foolproof opened its doors for business for the very first time.

Although that seems like only yesterday, a look at some of the notable events and products of that year might make you think it belongs to a whole other era. Let’s start with something eerily familiar…the economic and political landscape.


2002 heralded the zenith of “Dot-com” bubble bust. Five years or more of hype and uninformed panic investing prior to 2000 was followed by a blood–bath in tech stocks, and in 2002 the Nasdaq hit its lowest point. New Media Age’s 2002 survey of the new media industry (as Digital was called back then) was littered with words from agency CEOs such as “Carnage”, “Miserable” and “Tough”.

The rallying cry of the boom had been “awareness”, and triggered a land-grab of eyeballs and user-registrations. But by 2002 it was clear to boards that registrations alone did not mean loyal customers. With the growth of search engine marketing just around the corner, 2002 heralded a return to basic principles of business, understanding what customers want and need, building services and products to meet those needs, and making those products and services easy to find and buy.

It was this last bit, making them easy to find and buy, that all the hype of the internet bubble had perhaps missed. The bubble had been about the “tech”, the post-bubble era was going to about “customers”. (As a foot note to this, an interesting broker note from 2002 caught my eye, a “Hold or Sell” recommendation on Apple Inc, criticised for not “having anything obvious to follow the iPod”)

Elsewhere, the shine was beginning to come off New Labour, as the economy faltered, the War on Terror rolled on, and ‘Cheriegate’ brought embarrassment and the first accusations of lying to be brought to No.10’s door.

So while this was the backdrop to our year, what were we really doing?


Well, we might have been listening to Eminem’s or Coldplay’s albums which dominated the album charts, or we were charmed with Nelly and Kelly, as they sang about their Dilemma. We were into the girls groups too, with Atomic Kitten and Girls Aloud both having long running stays at number one (sadly, 2002 also gave us the Cheeky Girls).

On TV we were probably watching Will Young win the first ever reality-TV-talent show, Pop Idol, and Spooks entered its first series. At the cinema we were queuing to see Eminem’s 8 Mile, and getting excited about the future possibilities of technology with Minority Report.

So, talking about exciting glimpses of future technology, what was cutting edge in 2002? Forget Tom Cruise, heads-up displays and gesture-control, we didn’t even have a smartphone yet. The Apple iMac G4 was the must-have system for geeks and designers everywhere, and we were probably all using phones made by Nokia or Motorola.

The one area that maybe moved us towards Minority Report territory was gaming. 2002 was a landmark year for gamers, and saw the launch of two new platforms - the xBox and the Nintendo Game Cube - to line up against the already launched Sony PS2.

If you were gaming then, you were probably stealing cars, picking up hookers, and shooting their pimps for the very first time. Yes, the best-selling game of 2002 was the delightful Grand Theft Auto 3.

For those of us who liked their games in the real world, 2002 was a World Cup year, and took place in Japan and South Korea. This gave us early morning kick-offs and breakfast time beers, and Sven’s England emerging from the group of death to give us all hope, only to go out on a whimper (and goalkeeping blunder) to 10-man Brazil in the quarter finals.

More painful than that, both Tom and I had to endure both our respective teams failing in major finals that year: Norwich lost the Championship play-off final, and Spurs flopped in the Worthington Cup final. I hate football sometimes.

Opening for business

So, with the digital industry looking like it may never recover from the burst of the bubble and the economic outlook looking almost as bleak as the reality TV we were watching, Tom and I took probably the most ill-advised decision at that time – we started a business.

But that decision encompasses the values that makes Foolproof the company that it is. Brave, sometimes foolhardy, but passionately committed to our vision for the future. We look forward to the next ten years, in the hope that we’ll all see sustainable growth in the economy, a thriving digital industry and that Spurs and Norwich will at least complete a double each.

What do you remember about 2002? Let us know in the comments below.

Be part of the next 10 years, contact us today.

Peter Ballard

I co-founded Foolproof with Tom Wood back in 2002. Today I work across a range of clients, particularly in the roles of Experience Planner and Client Partner. In my role as Experience Planner, I ensure that our design teams have access to the right insight to respond appropriately to the business and creative challenges faced by our clients.

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