Client: Digital Fountain, Inc. (Fremont, CA)
PR Team: A&R Partners (San Mateo, CA)
Campaign: Launch of Digital Fountain: "Turning Arcane Theory Into
Time Frame: December 2000 - April 2001
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
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
Choosing the actual launch date proved even trickier, especially since
all visibility efforts would revolve around the debut of the new
"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
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.
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."
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.