55. Most Endangered Profession
Real-estate agents have been on the endangered-profession list for a while (thanks, Internet and 2% brokers), but Home Depot may make them extinct. In seven southern states, the DIY store will be testing home-selling kits aimed at the growing for-sale-by-owner market. For $12.95, you get a sign to put in your yard, but more important, you get a listing and photos on Owners.com, which claims to be the largest for-sale-by-owner site, with 5 million customers. The site has an answering service that fields calls from prospective buyers, eliminating the role of agents and their 6% commissions. If the test goes over well, Home Depot plans to offer it nationally. And loud blazers will be seen only at country clubs.
56. Combo Drugs
Call it the "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" approach to drug development: Two drugs may perform better than one. For example, a combo of Pfizer's torcetrapib and Lipitor may be more effective in increasing good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood and decreasing its evil twin, LDL. The hope is that the combo will lower the risk for strokes and heart attacks in patients who take it and give Pfizer a new blockbuster. It's spending a record $800 million to test the new combo.
57. 21st Century Etch A Sketch
We all know that the TV screen is the next game board, but who knew it would go this far? Ohio Art, whose signature product is the 1960's classic Etch A Sketch, has launched an electronics division. Its first product? ETO, which plugs into the TV and lets you create art, animation, and even sound effects onscreen. New cartridges will be released throughout 2005. Too bad TVs don't have knobs anymore.
58. Where the Boys Are
The ad industry's constant struggle is how to find the elusive young male with disposable income. Why aren't they watching more TV? Maybe they'll be reading Giant, a new men's entertainment magazine that launched in the fall and speaks the language of obsession that's made lines from The Simpsons a kind of currency amongst 21- to 34-year-old guys. Unlike a lot of startup magazines, Giant has smart money behind it in Mort Meyerson (bonus points if you remember him as the cover boy of Fast Company issue No. 2) and already has national distribution. Its debut issue, with a targeted rate base of 200,000, had more than 50 ad pages in a tough market, from GM, L'Oreal, Ralph Lauren, and almost every major Hollywood studio. If guys respond to the content, watch out for the media-buyer stampede.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.