CAMPAIGNS: Special Events - eTour brings Web Turkey to the US

Client: eTour (Atlanta)

Client: eTour (Atlanta)

Client: eTour (Atlanta)

PR Team: Robinson Lerer & Montgomery (New York)

Campaign: Mahir’s eTour of America

Time Frame: November to December 1999

Budget: dollars 100,000

From Taco Bell’s Chihuahua to’s sock puppet, the use of quirky

icons is just about the oldest marketing gimmick in the book. Few might

have predicted, however, that a slightly cheesy, wanna-be Romeo from

Turkey - the Internet’s first cyber-superstar - would be the ticket to

mountains of press for an Atlanta-based start-up called eTour.

eTour co-founder and director of marketing Jim Lanzone got the idea for

’Mahir’s eTour of America’ last November when - like seemingly everyone

in cyberspace - he received an e-mail link to Mahir Cagli’s so-called ’I

Kiss You’ Web site, in which the Speedo-clad Turk invites women to visit

him in his native land.

’Suddenly everyone in the Internet world was talking about Mahir,’

recalls Lanzone. ’I thought it would be a great idea to bring him to the

industry instead, which ties in with our company’s concept of bringing

the best of the Web to our members.’ Etour calls Web sites to users’

attention based on the interests that they’ve indicated.


The idea was basic: fly Mahir out to the Internet/new media capitals of

America for a two-week whirlwind tour, using his celebrity (and working

with showbiz publicists from RLM/New York) to drum up media and consumer

interest for eTour. ’This was not intended to be a long-term campaign,

just a quick jolt of publicity,’ admits Lanzone, pointing out that the

tour coincided with the first TV ads for eTour, in December.

Also, the decision was made to spend the majority of time in San

Francisco, even throwing an all-out glitzy bash for him in the South of

Market multimedia gulch, ’because that’s ground zero for the Internet

industry,’ Lanzone says.


Actually getting Mahir stateside posed a challenge. Lanzone says he

contacted him via e-mail through his Web site, inviting him to come out

on eTour’s ticket. A week later, Mahir responded, agreeing to come.

However, he also referred Lanzone to a group called the Turkish

Federation of American Associations, where the Net celeb had secured

representation. After about 100 phone calls to the organization and to

Turkey, plus negotiations over the contract, the deal was sealed. (In

the end, Mahir did not receive any additional payment for his

’endorsement’; eTour only paid his expenses.)

Once in the US, Mahir hit the road with Lanzone and the PR firm. While

New York and Los Angeles yielded the best showbiz opportunities -

Roseanne and The Daily Show among the highlights - it was San Francisco

where Mahir made the biggest splash. He ’was mobbed everywhere he went,’

says Lanzone. Over 1,200 people from the press and dot-com industries

came to the December 15 ’Key to Cyberspace’ party eTour threw for


’When we arrived and made an entrance with Mahir with the theme from

Rocky playing, people started holding up signs for their own companies

to get on camera,’ Lanzone recalls. ’It was great - here were people

from other companies doing their own guerrilla marketing at our

guerrilla marketing event!’


During the campaign eTour did get a spike in traffic, but ’this was more

of a branding campaign for us,’ says Lanzone, who also claims that eTour

is adding 10,000 members per day.

The clips alone attest to the success of Lanzone’s hunch about


Overall, the two-week blitz generated more than 100 articles, including

hits in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and

Industry Standard. In addition, Mahir made more than 25 TV appearances,

including CNN, CNET, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and nearly

all the local newscasts in all three cities.

Even normally cynical tech business journalists like

columnist Jon Swartz admit eTour’s gimmick worked like a charm. ’Mahir

was downright ubiquitous,’ says Swartz. ’In one day, I read about him in

The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Jose Mercury News, saw him on

BayTV and KRON and heard about him on local radio.’


Lanzone is looking for the next big thing for eTour. ’I feel like

everyone expects that kind of thing from me now,’ he says. ’Nothing is

too big.’

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