CAMPAIGNS: Product Launch - Saving the media from tech-babble

Client: Digital Fountain, Inc. (Fremont, CA)

PR Team: A&R Partners (San Mateo, CA)

Campaign: Launch of Digital Fountain: "Turning Arcane Theory Into

Investor Thrill"

Time Frame: December 2000 - April 2001

Budget: $140,000



After seeing so many companies and supposed visionaries drown in an

ocean of nonsensical business plans, the media has become increasingly

reluctant to devote precious column inches to upstart companies -

especially those still trying to figure out how to turn a profit.

"There's an attitude of 'everybody says they have a great new technology

- what makes you different?'" notes Jonathan Bass, SAE at San Mateo,

CA-based tech specialists A&R Partners.



Into this hostile climate came Digital Fountain, a company that claims

to have developed the most efficient way to simultaneously deliver rich

content (audio/video files, streaming media, or large applications) to a

sizeable audience. The company's cofounders and marketers were convinced

that the technology was worth shouting about. The challenge was to

convince the media to do the shouting for them. To this end, Digital

Fountain's marketing comms manager Shelli White called on A&R to turn up

the volume.



Strategy



A&R staffers had two preliminary goals for the launch: explaining to a

lay audience and the trade/business media exactly what Digital Fountain

does, and trying to understand the technology themselves. "We wanted to

avoid the technology rat hole," White explains. "It's not easy to

explain our technology without getting into physics and code

theory."



Tactics



Choosing the actual launch date proved even trickier, especially since

all visibility efforts would revolve around the debut of the new

technology.



"With a Version 1.0 product, it's very difficult to say, 'This is when

we'll be ready,'" White notes. To capitalize on the hype surrounding the

annual National Association of Broadcasters "convergence marketplace"

trade show, Digital Fountain decided to launch on April 16, a week

before the event's late-April start. "It gave us time to get everything

in order," Bass explains. "If we had launched at the show, we might have

gotten lost in all the noise."



The campaign eschewed gimmicks and events in favor of good old-fashioned

media relations. ("I wish I could say it was more creative," White

jokes.) Given the fairly extensive lead time, A&R was able to coordinate

three separate press tours to educate the press. This allowed the firm

to test-drive its messaging and obtain feedback well in advance of the

launch.



A&R also tried to develop distinctive pitches for each audience. For the

broadcast trade media, the firm waxed futuristic about how the company's

technology would help enable interactive TV. Straight tech trades

(InfoWorld, eWeek) were fed details about specific product features,

while business titles were pitched about the differences between Digital

Fountain and its competitors.



Results



The company's technology struck a chord with both the trade and business

press. Forbes ran a two-page spread in its April 16 issue with a picture

of Digital Fountain's cofounders and a chart explaining the technology,

while outlets ranging from The New York Times to Interactive Week to EE

Times (a trade publication for engineers) wrote about the company in the

days preceding the launch.



"I felt like some reporters chose to infuse their own skepticism into

the articles," Bass admits. "But overall, we couldn't have been

happier." White feels that the media was truly sold on the uniqueness of

Digital Fountain's mission: "In this type of economic climate, the media

pretty much has to stick to the financial-viability angle. But

excitement about the technology came through as well."



Future



According to White, Digital Fountain will still work with A&R, though

nothing specific is in place now. "We need them to help us keep pushing

through in this crazy market," she says.



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