CAMPAIGN: Protecting companies from cybersquatters

NetNames manages the domain name portfolios of a third of FTSE 100 companies. Crucial to its business is ensuring that online brands are protected from malicious speculators - also known as cybersquatters.

Campaign Online brand protection
Client NetNames
PR Team Hotwire
Timescale October 2006 – March 2007
Budget £4,500

Cybersquatters disrupt the browser traffic to companies’ genuine websites by registering the domain names that match up with a trademarked name. They then either try to sell them to the company that owns the trademark – usually for a vast profit – or they try to keep the ­domain under their control, making money by collecting a fee for directing people to other sites.

For example, someone who is looking for information on Chime Communications chairman Lord Bell might type www.lordbell.com into a web browser. They would be disappointed. Instead of taking them to the Chime or Bell Pottinger websites, it links them to a site with pay-per-click advertising.

So NetNames tasked Hotwire, its ­retained agency of five years, to raise awareness of online brand protection and NetNames’ domain name registration and monitoring services.

Objectives
To promote NetNames as the domain name management specialist of choice and position chief operating officer Jonathan Robinson as an online brand protection expert. To highlight the issue of cyber­squa­t­ting in the national and B2B media and create newsworthy coverage of the dangers of leaving brands open to ­attack.

Strategy and plan
Online brand protection is a technical subject, so explaining it to more mainstream audiences required a human-interest angle set around the national news agenda. Hotwire developed a campaign that showed protection is better than cure.

Last October, the Hotwire PR team highlighted some of the vulnerabilities ­surrounding the launch of David Came­ron’s webcameron.org.uk blog.

After press speculation about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s relationship, the team flagged up websites relating to, but not owned by, the ­couple – such as www.willsandkate.com.

Further stories were created around The X Factor’s Leona Lewis, whose web address was placed for auction on eBay.

These stories were then pitched with clear online brand protection messaging backed by authoritative comment from Robinson.

Measurement and evaluation
Overall the campaign achieved more than 450 articles in newspapers across the world. In the UK, stories were carried by Reuters and the Press Association, while the campaign scored coverage in outlets ranging from The Times, The Finan­cial Times, The Guardian, The Daily Star and The Daily Mirror to BBC News Online, Radio 5 Live and VNU Net.

According to in-house evaluation, 92 per cent of coverage featured comment from Robinson, while 81 per cent clearly positioned NetNames as the domain name management specialist of choice.

Results
The brand protection campaign came hot on the heels of Hotwire’s work for NetNames on the new ‘.eu’ web ­domain, introduced last summer. The profile generated by both the campaigns helped boost revenues for NetNames’ Platinum Service to £3.4m.The firm has since secured blue-chip clients including Unilever and Coca-Cola.

BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman was so impressed with the web­cameron.com story that he issued the team a congratulory message.

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