CAMPAIGNS: Web Site Launch - Pierpont places a value on salvage

Client: SalvageSale (Houston)

PR Team: Pierpont Communications (Houston)

Campaign: SalvageSale soft launch

Time Frame: May 2000 - February 2001

Budget: Approximately dollars 240,000

The word "salvage" doesn't generally evoke images of Cartier watches and

other priceless baubles. Rather, it brings to mind sitcom icon Fred

Sanford sifting through piles of junk at his ragtag shop in South

Central Los Angeles.

The folks at SalvageSale are not above having fun with this image - a

picture from Sanford & Son adorns the company's lobby - but the company

had some serious work to do in advance of the May 2000 soft launch of Enter Pierpont Communications, which was handed the

project a mere 10 days before the site's launch.


The overarching goal of the PR program was to drive traffic to the Web

site. The problem? The salvage industry and the company itself -

SalvageSale sells items once damaged in cataclysmic events such as train

derailments and ship wrecks - had historically received little

publicity. Business analysts and reporters needed to be educated about

the estimated dollars 50 billion salvage market.

"Our job was to take something nobody knew anything about and tell

everyone about it," explains Pierpont VP Sally Ramsay.

Since SalvageSale was trying to beat a competitor to market, Pierpont

had little time to rev up the PR engine. "Launching our site was

basically a fire drill," jokes SalvageSale president and CFO Ira


Recognizing this, Ramsay and her Pierpont teammates adopted a two-word

PR mantra - "educate quickly" - and decided to pitch the SalvageSale

story to business publications first, saving the manufacturing,

insurance, chemical and marine trade publications for later. The agency

also chose to emphasize the SalvageSale's experience; unlike the

company's main competitor, SalvageSale's staff boasted a wealth of



Pierpont trained SalvageSale executives on how to deal with the media

and set up extensive analyst tours in Boston and Silicon Valley. The

agency also coordinated speaking engagements at insurance and marine

industry shindigs, as well as more intimate meetings with executives at

major insurance companies.

Pierpont was quick to notify SalvageSale's target media whenever

off-beat items sold on the Web site. "Somebody in Mexico bought 22

fire-damaged caskets, for instance, and a company in Damascus bought

32,000 door peepholes," Ramsay recalls. "We tried to take advantage of

these wonderful, funky pitching opportunities."


The Economist ran a full-page story with a cartoon, while The Wall

Street Journal featured the company in its "Digits" column. The San Jose

Mercury News devoted a full page in its special March 26

"Business-to-Business Marketplaces" report to SalvageSale, and the story

was subsequently syndicated to 29 of Knight-Ridder's 32 newspapers.

"We haven't broken into The New York Times yet, but give us time," says

Ramsay, who estimates that the PR program generated the equivalent of

dollars 1.3 million in print ads.

Spurred by the media coverage and increased site traffic, a group headed

by Securitas Ventures and Merrill Lynch funded SalvageSale to the tune

of dollars 17 million last October - not exactly a time when VCs were

throwing cash around. Green promises that the 30-month-old company will

be profitable no later than the first quarter of 2002, and claims that

SalvageSale has "doubled, even tripled" the amount of money companies

had previously been receiving for their salvage.

As icing on the cake, SalvageSale's major competitor closed its doors in

the fall, leaving the company as the only remaining player in the online

salvage niche.


Pierpont is coordinating a series of meetings for SalvageSale executives

with members of the manufacturing, marine, chemical and insurance trade

media. The agency will also help SalvageSale open an office in London

later this summer.

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