CAMPAIGNS: Launch kicked off with geek contest - Website Launch

Client: Ziff Davis Internet (NYC)

PR Team: CooperKatz & Company (New York)

Campaign: ExtremeTech Launch/America's Fastest Geek

Time Frame: May 15 - July 31, 2001

Budget: $100,000

At a time when "dot-com" had become a dirty word and conventional wisdom

was pointing to the demise of content-driven websites, Ziff Davis

decided to go against the grain with the spring launch of a new online

publication. The site,, targets software programmers

and developers, product engineers, IT network administrators, and even

tech junkies and gamers. With ExtremeTech's debut, Ziff hoped to

generate publicity for the company within the business and industry

press, as well as draw traffic to the site from this wide and diverse

community of end users. The company therefore enlisted the services of

CooperKatz & Co.


CooperKatz took a two-pronged approach. First, to reach the mainstream

business press and industry publications, the team formed a pitch around

the idea of Ziff's daring to introduce an online publication in the

current economic climate. "With a website launch, it's difficult to

convince reporters that this is indeed news at all," admits Steve Rubel,

manager of client service for CooperKatz. "So we used that to our

advantage by highlighting the fact that Ziff Davis was investing in

online content at a time when few others were."

For the second phase of the campaign, CooperKatz cooked up an event to

be staged at PC Expo. The "America's Fastest Geek" competition, modeled

after the extreme sporting events, pitted programmers and other techies

against each other in a series of timed heats to assemble a PC from

scratch starting with a bucket of parts. The winner of the final round

would receive a custom-designed chrome PC.


For phase one of the launch, CooperKatz kicked off the business media

outreach with an offer to The New York Times for an exclusive in the

paper's Monday Media Business section. On the day the Times story ran, a

news announcement for wide release was distributed on the PR newswires,

followed by a week-long media tour.

To generate awareness and recruit contestants, CooperKatz planted a

story about the contest on "We were really worried the night

before that no contestants would sign up and we would be left assembling

the parts ourselves," he recalls. "Instead, we had crowds of at least 20

people deep at the booth every day. And lots of reporters actually

wanted to try the contest themselves."

On the day of the finals, the team shot b-roll of the winner, which was

offered to local and national TV news outlets. A print press release was

also distributed on the wires.


In addition to the Times piece, ExtremeTech's debut was covered by The

Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS Marketwatch, and the San Francisco


The "America's Fastest Geek" contest also garnered broadcast coverage,

including stories on CNBC, Fox News, TechTV, Bloomberg Radio, and NY1

News. A photo of the winning geek even ran on the AP wire.

Within 30 days of the first Times story - and without support of any

other marketing - ExtremeTech received more than four million page



The ExtremeTech launch was a project account for CooperKatz, though

Rubel says the publicity surrounding the contest has caused the agency

to receive a number of calls from prospective clients looking to stage

similar media events at trade shows.

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