Network Solutions strikes the right balance with 'Go Granny'

Network Solutions, an online services company providing domain names and online marketing, positions itself as a partner for small businesses.

Client: Network Solutions (Herndon, VA)
PR agency: CRT/tanaka (Alexandria, VA)
Campaign: Go Granny: How Network Solutions Stole the Super Bowl
Duration: February 4-18, 2011
Budget: $200,000

Network Solutions, an online services company providing domain names, Web hosting, and online marketing, positions itself as a partner for small businesses. Rather than spend millions of dollars on a Super Bowl ad, the company and CRT/tanaka created "Go Granny," an online video starring Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman that spoofed competitor Go Daddy's typical risqué advertising approach.

"Go Daddy's approach influenced us, but we didn't want to participate in that genre," says Sanjay Gupta, Network Solutions' VP of marketing. "We wanted to show ourselves as a company that can deliver serious business while having fun with the idea."

Gupta adds that the campaign would also provide an opportunity to promote .CO domain product offerings, which launched last July.

"A large camp of people find Go Daddy's approach demeaning to women and business," explains Mike Mulvihill, president of CRT/tanaka. "They tried to drive viewers out of the ad to see something even more revealing online. We were driving people to see what we had to say."

Leachman was chosen because the team felt she could perfectly convey a "tongue-in-cheek, but not demeaning tone," says Mulvihill. BlogHer cofounder Lisa Stone appeared in the video after Leachman to deliver the business pitch.

"She provided a contrast between the risqué Go Daddy girl and a serious entrepreneur who knows what it takes to start and grow a business online," Mulvihill says of Stone.

Outreach to key social media influencers, media relations, and banner ads drove awareness.

The video was posted on YouTube, Facebook, Network Solutions' website, and Leachman's website the Friday before the Super Bowl.

Leachman tweeted in three-hour stints throughout the weekend from her personal Twitter handle. Stone shared the video and engaged with influencers on Twitter. BlogHer mommy bloggers also tweeted, and the team used @GoGranny and @netsolcares Twitter handles to spread the word as well.

Mulvihill says targeting high-profile bloggers with large followings was key. They included Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford; Guy Kawasaki, cofounder of and founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures; and Beth Kanter of Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media. Social media, celebrity, sports, and mommy bloggers were also targeted.

Media outreach began on Friday so the video could be kept under wraps until it launched. Outreach was broad, including all outlets covering the Super Bowl, as well as business, entertainment, and trade outlets. Mulvihill says the team positioned Go Granny as "a counter-campaign."

Gupta is "extremely pleased" with results. Sales of the .CO domain increased more than 500% over trend projections during Super Bowl weekend.

The campaign earned nearly 20 million Twitter impressions (more than 3,500 tweets), and more than 50 million media impressions in outlets including the Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, and Ad Age.

The agency reports the video received 72,593 total views and 97% of viewers "liked" the "Go Granny" video on Network Solutions' YouTube channel.

Gupta says Network Solutions wants to continue to use the Go Granny character to promote product launches and other events that might fit well with a similar approach.

PRWeek's View
The concept here was sound and the team did a terrific job driving the video. Go Daddy had been teasing the introduction of a new "sexy girl" in its Super Bowl ad, which turned out to be Joan Rivers. The CRT/tanaka-Network Solutions team didn't know this, but Mulvihill thinks it certainly didn't hurt their effort. Regardless of what Go Daddy was trying to accomplish with Rivers, the fact that both companies used older women only heightened online chatter. It will be interesting to see how Network Solutions uses the Granny character going forward.

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