dotTV is a registrar and the exclusive worldwide registry for second-level domain names in the .tv top-level Internet domain. In an agreement with the South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, Pasadena, Califomia-based dotTV arranged to pay the island $50 million over ten years in exchange for the right to serve as the source for Web addresses ending in tv. In April 2000, Schwartz Communications, Inc. was retained by dotTV as its public relations agency of record.
The campaign was a six-month media relations launch of dotTV and the .tv domain. Several elements of the campaign make it worthy of recognition by the SABRE Awards. The campaign contained exceptional planning, top-notch strategy and flawless execution of public relations tactics. Significant challenges and obstacles to gaining media coverage and increasing consumer mind share were met with creative solutions. The end result was a launch campaign that exceeded the client's high expectations in brand recognition and boosting sales.
CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY
The landscape of domain registration was changing rapidly as .com was increasingly becoming a symbol of the early Internet era and the ubiquity of .com was resulting in a loss of cache value and diminished importance. dotTV’s launch of the .tv domain presented the opportunity for further globalization of the Internet as well as the opportunity to establish the first “premium” domain name brand. “TV” is the most recognized two-letter acronym in the world, and with domain registrations skyrocketing, dotTV provided the only available domain that could reach people on a global scale.
Although .com does not have tremendous global meaning, it was clearly the primary U.S. Internet brand and competing against this established brand was a challenge. While advertising campaign had started, dotTV did not have market or brand awareness among key audiences. Additionally, the “TV” name is almost universally associated with television and it was difficult to convince the media that the .tv addresses could be channeled into other business types. Identifying customers willing to speak with the media also presented a significant challenge. It was difficult to validate to the media that .tv was the domain for the new generation of premium Web sites because many of the customers had yet to launch their new sites.
RESEARCH, PLANNING AND OBJECTIVES
Schwartz Communications analyzed the competitive landscape and identified the other available country code top-level domains such as .cc, .md, .to and .ws. Schwartz also investigated appropriate targets for the media lists including those who had covered ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and those already familiar with Tuvalu. A list of high-profile customers for the customer screening program was assembled. For the duration of the campaign, Schwartz continued to research and identify media contacts and opportunities through aggressive media outreach.
To support a successful launch of dotTV and its brand, Schwartz Communications developed a public relations plan and timeline. The plan’s goal was to establish .tv as the preferable top-level domain and to leverage the company’s key assets into a unique, exciting, global and premium brand. The plan identified core objectives over the six-month campaign including: promote the new .tv addresses as “prime real-estate” on the Internet; establish .tv as a clear alternative to other top-level domains; help drive traffic to the dotTV Web site to increase sales volume and revenue; build awareness of dotTV among individuals, organizations and companies that are seeking a distinctive domain address; communicate that .tv is the only globally meaningful domain available; announce high-profile customers to validate the .tv brand; establish dotTV executives as industry spokespeople and experts on key issues such as domain assignments, ICANN, trademark issues and exploding growth of alternative top-level domains; promote key technology partnerships to communicate that dotTV is an emerging Internet leader and to attract additional partners.
Several strategies were implemented to address the core objectives. Through key messages, announcements and media relations, .tv was declared the premium, global top-level domain and the new standard for the Internet. Additionally, Schwartz promoted .tv as the new standard for global Internet, coupled with high cache value and brand proposition. Schwartz positioned dotTV as the Internet domain authority on emerging issues pertaining to convergence as the next important phase of the Internet by highlighting the management team’s unique experience in broadcast, finance, technology and entertainment. Marquis names of Web sites, partners and customers who signed on to the .tv domain were announced to validate the .tv brand.
In April, Schwartz Communications worked quickly to execute a successful introductory launch for dotTV. In order to prepare for the launch, Schwartz contacted target media outlets and arranged briefings. While coverage from dotTV’s initial announcements continued over the next six months, stories about the company were immediately published in several key outlets including the Associated Press, C/Net, Los Angeles Times and ZDNet. Additionally, Schwartz concentrated significant effort on drafting corporate background materials for the press kit, investigating and developing appropriate targets for the media lists, media training the dotTV executive team, developing the customer database and then interviewing those customers to gauge their interest in participating in media activities.
In June, dotTV officials attended the Promax/BDA show in New Orleans to sign up broadcasters for new domain addresses. Schwartz Communications identified the show as an opportunity to secure meetings with television, broadcasting and entertainment industry press, who were likely to be the first movers in the domestic market. Following the show, a press release announced more than 40 broadcasters had signed up for new .tv domain addresses. As a result of the meetings and announcement, coverage was secured in Broadcasting & Cable, CableWorld, Electronic Media, eCompany Now, Entertainment News Daily, Los Angeles Business Journal and Mediaweek among others.
In July, Schwartz identified that Tuvalu's impending visit to the United States and admission to the U.N. provided an excellent opportunity to announce the positive economic and social changes resulting from the country's relationship with dotTV. A complete plan and timeline was developed to gain maximum media exposure to publicize dotTV's core business and key messages. In August and early September, the Tuvalu plan was executed. Tuvalu, which had a GDP of only $7.8 million prior to the agreement with dotTV, was using a portion of the funds generated from the sale of its tv address to pay for the yearly fees required to join the United Nations. Schwartz Communications researched the impact the dotTV agreement was having on the daily lives of the citizens of Tuvalu. In addition to joining the U.N., Tuvalu was spending the $18 million it had received from dotTV on infrastructure improvements, road repair, electricity, medical personnel, Internet connections, and international scholarships and education. The Prime Minister, lonatana lonatana and a delegation from Tuvalu visited the dotTV offices in Pasadena, California and then traveled to New York for Tuvalu's formal induction into the United Nations on September 5, 2000.
Schwartz Communications was successful in arranging interviews for dotTV officials and the Tuvaluan delegates in both Pasadena and New York. Before the visit, phone interviews were arranged with USA Today, Boston Herald and New York Times. For the delegation's short stop in Pasadena to visit the dotTV offices, Schwartz Communications issued a media alert and set up interviews with CBS News radio, the Los Angeles Times, L.A's NBC4 news, Christian Science Monitor, The Zone and Business 2.0. For the New York portion of the delegation's visit, Schwartz issued a media alert and arranged interviews with media outlets including BBC World radio, MSNBC broadcast, MSNBC online, CNN and the Associated Press. On September 4, ABC World News Tonight aired a segment on dotTV and Tuvalu. On September 5, the day of Tuvalu's admission to the United Nations, Schwartz Communications issued a press release announcing the news and emphasizing the fact that Tuvalu was not able to join the U.N, before the agreement with dotTV.
As a result of the launch campaign, on October 23, dotTV announced that it has registered 100,000 domain names faster than any top-level domain in Internet history. .tv passed the 100,000 mark in only six months, a figure that took .com six years to accomplish. In those six months, dotTV sold one address for one million dollars and three for $100,000 each. The company opened two offices, in London and Hong Kong, to help with growing international demand. On September 5, the day that Tuvalu was initiated into the United Nations, dotTV registered the most .tv addresses in its corporate history. GreatDomains.com, the leading appraiser and marketplace for domain names proclaimed that the .tv top-level domain had achieved an overall value rating second only to .com, a clear indication that the .tv domain had grown exponentially in demand and recognition around the world.