DOMAIN NAMES: Make a name for yourself

Research undertaken by NetNames found that a massive 80 per cent of press ads and half of TV ads use domain names.

'Have a break', 'The future's bright', 'It's too orangey for crows'. Snappy slogans have been at the heart of marketing since the dawn of advertising. Some are used for just one campaign, others hang around for a while. A good catchphrase, designed to be memorable, sticks in the brain and can be used across all media - TV, direct mail, press and radio - to link a campaign.

Acronym-watchers will be delighted to find there's a new boy in town: the CURL or campaign-specific URL. An increasing amount of offline marketing is incorporating a web address to drive consumers online. Domain names management company NetNames, part of NetBenefit, undertook exclusive research for Revolution, which found that 50 per cent of TV ads, 80 per cent of press ads and 22 per cent of radio ads now incorporate a domain name (see graph below).

"Incorporating a domain name into an ad can enhance brand experience by providing a source of additional information and the ability to capture a larger piece of audience mindshare," says Scott Davison, marketing manager at NetNames.

However, it's not a simple case of adding any old url, of course. Marketers must decide whether they want to drive consumers to a campaign-specific or generic brand site. If the web site is to be specific to the campaign, they must also decide whether it will be part of the main site (for example, HP's hp.com/plus_dreamworks) or a separate domain name using the campaign slogan (such as Lucozade's loaditlikelara.com).

In its research, NetNames asked ad agencies the likelihood of them including campaign-specific domain names in ads. "While it is common for ads to include a generic company domain name, increasingly we are seeing the use of domains that relate to specific ad campaigns," Davison points out. "The survey supports this observation, with nine out of 10 respondents having used a campaign-specific domain during the past 12 months. The main advantages listed were the ability to provide a memorable call to action and to directly measure the effectiveness of the campaign," he adds.

The type of offline media used tends to affect the choice of domain name and whether it is incorporated into the advertising at all. NetNames found that 10 per cent of domain names cited in press ads were campaign or product-specific, rather than generic, and out of the 40 in the survey nine contained a slash (for example, sony.co.uk/junxion). TV ads were more likely to include campaign-specific sites (such as magnumsevensins.co.uk), at 14 per cent, but less likely to contain slashed addresses. Only one domain name cited in radio ads was found to be campaign-specific as the majority were generic home pages. The survey also found that agencies were more likely to include a domain name in a print or TV ad than a radio ad.

"It was interesting that the most common place to find campaign-specific domain names was in a TV commercial, whereas print ads occasionally use the longer version web addresses (www.hp.com/uk/plus_bmwwilliamsf1)," says Davison. "The reason is probably because people are more likely to be looking at a print ad as they type the name into the browser, whereas the TV ads are relying on the viewer to recall the domain name at a later time or date," he adds. "Given that consumers might not remember the suffix, it is pragmatic to recognise that registration in more than one of the common suffixes is good practice (for example, mgbeatsbmw.com, mgbeatsbmw.co.uk). The same goes for hyphenation and non-hyphenation."

Digital agency Moonfish is a fan of campaign-specific domain names, having used them for clients such as bed manufacturer Silent Night (www.myfirstbed.co.uk).

"When Moonfish creates an e-marketing or online ad campaign, it works hard to create exciting and memorable messages," explains Sarah Charlton, creative director at Moonfish. "These messages are brought together with a slogan that is used consistently across all elements of the campaign," she adds. "The domain should use this slogan. After all, we want the audience to remember it."

Jane Ostler, managing director at digital@jwt London, digital agency of J. Walter Thompson, says the web address doesn't boost brand awareness in itself, but adds depth to a campaign by providing an easy way of getting to the site. She says the style of the campaign will play a big role in deciding what kind of web address is used. "If the campaign has the potential to be memorable and loved, there may be a valid reason for using the campaign name," she says. "Likewise, a short promotional campaign may benefit from a campaign name address, which is often used in film marketing (such as whatisthematrix.com)."

However, Ostler warns that "the campaign-based domain name can risk incomprehension if the campaign is no good". She explains: "It can be seen as an irritating and cynical ploy to get the campaign out there. 'Quote me happy', Norwich Union's campaign-specific domain name is an example of this. At least the company has been sensible enough to also use (but not promote) its normal web address."

The type of campaign is also likely to affect the type of domain name used; whether it is the overall brand campaign or simply highlighting a specific product. Digital agency Oyster Partners has run two campaigns for car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz: Lucky Star used a campaign-specific domain name (www.luckyluckystar.co.uk) while the Movement campaign drove consumers to part of the main Mercedes-Benz site.

"The Movement campaign was a brand campaign rather than promoting a specific product," says Richard Hedges, account manager at Oyster. "We wanted to evoke the emotions people feel when they think of the Mercedes-Benz brand, and encourage them to make the connection between the Movement web site and the whole Mercedes experience. So, it made sense to use offline media, like cinema, press and sponsorship in The Observer, to drive users to part of the official Mercedes site."

The Lucky Star promotion had a different aim. "For the first two or three months the campaign was not supposed to be connected to Mercedes-Benz," says Hedges. "The TV and cinema ads were created as if they were trailers for a real film. So we couldn't call the web site Mercedes Lucky Star."

Oyster went to some length to conceal the identity of the brand behind Lucky Star by registering the domain name to an individual rather than any of Mercedes-Benz's agencies or the brand itself. To add realism to, and promote, the Lucky Star site, it built three fake ones (www.whoismrh.com, www.caseisneverclosed.com and www.themusicofchance.com) containing background information on the fictional film and its characters.

"The domain names were very important," says Hedges. "We needed to capture people's imagination. The sites had to be promoted virally and if people didn't find the domain names interesting they'd just delete them rather than clicking through. We had to make sure the names asked questions or created a sense of intrigue. A campaign like this, which doesn't have the benefit of the Mercedes-Benz brand name to encourage clickthrough, stands or falls by the quality of its domain names," he continues. Once the identity of the company behind the campaign had been revealed, the content of the web site changed to become more Mercedes-orientated.

Digital-media agency i-level also registered mock domain names when it was working with the Central Office of Information (COI) and HM Customs & Excise to curb tobacco smuggling. The domain names formed a key part of the campaign because the COI wanted to target only those people who were about to buy illegally imported cigarettes online and not the majority of law-abiding netizens who may not even realise that such a thing was possible.

I-level registered seven different web addresses, which included halfpricecigarettes.co.uk, and set up parodies of actual sites. However, when anyone tried to click through to a link they were shown an ad, warning that buying smuggled cigarettes is illegal. After five weeks, there were 6,812 visits to the sites, with 50 per cent of visitors clicking on a link that revealed the warning ad. Of these people, a further 62 per cent clicked through to the relevant HM Customs & Excise page.

Like Mercedes-Benz, Honda has tried using both campaign-specific domain names and web addresses that contain slashes. A promotion to support the launch of the Honda Civic posed a challenge for digital agency Dowcarter, which was charged with coming up with a pan-European campaign-specific web site. "Perceptions of Honda vary throughout Europe. In the south it is quite a sexy brand, whereas in the UK and northern Europe it is not," points out Jeremy Crowe, strategy director at Dowcarter. "Consequently, a different strapline was used for the two separate markets: Civic Feeling was used in Italy and Spain, and Civic Live It was used in northern Europe."

Honda registered both civicliveit.com and civicfeeling.com and promoted them in their separate markets using press, TV and posters. However, both sites linked visitors to another site, newhondacivic.com, which had to incorporate elements of both campaigns. "The solution was a web site that had the strapline Live the Civic Feeling, which matched both slogans," says Crowe. "It was a neat way of getting around the problem. Building two separate sites would have been too complicated as we wanted to run a competition across both."

The Civic Live It strapline suggests the use of the Italian top-level domain, as in civiclive.it. Crowe says that this was considered, particularly as civicliveit looks quite odd as one word, but it was dropped for being too confusing since the strapline in Italy was actually the other slogan, Civic Feeling.

"We registered .tv, but didn't use it. We also fiddled about with hyphenations and underscoring, and we registered all of the variants of the slogans," adds Crowe.

Honda has now changed its strategy and uses web addresses that are part of its main site, such as honda.co.uk/accord. Crowe says this was partly driven by a change in advertising agency, but also because Honda is more keen to promote its main brand alongside specific products, as well as cross-selling between them. "When people come to look at the Accord, Honda would like them to also swing by and look at the Jazz or CR-V," he says.

"Honda's advertising is increasingly becoming much of a muchness, but in a good way, with all of its advertising having the same feel, so it makes sense to hang the web sites off the main brand. Campaign-specific web sites work when a campaign is driven by a big idea and allows companies to be a lot freer with the creative," adds Crowe.

Campaign-specific domain names are especially important for the government, says Oyster's Hedge. "If the public sector is running a campaign, it tends to benefit from a campaign-specific web address because, otherwise, the domain names tend to be quite dry," he suggests.

Denise Turner, marketing manager of digital agency Cimex, agrees. Cimex is on the COI's digital roster and is also working on a 'young person's portal', which is due to launch in the autumn.

The Government is entitled to use the domain suffix .gov.uk (as in connexions.gov.uk, the site for 13 to 19-year-olds). However, says Turner, when the Government is trying to market a concept or service, it would be better off using more slogan-based domain names, which incorporate the .com or .co.uk suffix and tend to be more memorable. "It is important that the Government is not branded as the Government when it is dealing with young people in particular, who may have negative associations with government," she explains.

Cimex held focus groups and brainstorming sessions to come up with the name of its portal. "We needed a name that can be easily remembered," explains Ian Haynes, strategic technical partner at Cimex. "It also had to be completely dissimilar to any name that leads to a porn site, as we are dealing with children, and be available as a domain name. We also had to make sure it doesn't mean anything derogatory in street slang."

When brands use a campaign-specific domain name, they often point their usual brand name towards that page or, alternatively, include a large, obvious link to the campaign-based microsite on the existing brand page, thus mopping up those visitors who are interested in the brand but have not been exposed to the campaign, or who have forgotten the slogan.

Ostler cites Nestle chocolate brand Kit Kat as a good example of this, whose web sites kitkat.co.uk and haveabreak.co.uk both point to the same page. "This seems to be a good solution because you double your chances of success by allowing people who have seen the ad or promotion to get there, as well as those people who take a guess at the domain name," Ostler explains. "You can promote whichever address is the most appropriate at the time."

One last thing to consider when registering a domain name comprising a slogan is that even the most innocent words can become quite different when they are run together. For example, internet users were amused for a while by what claimed to be PowerGen's Italian web site (www.powergenitalia.com).

In the end it turned out to have nothing to do with the utility firm at all, but it goes to show that companies should never be afraid to hypenate, as 'find an actor's agent' site Who Represents? (www.whorepresents.com) should probably learn.

THE METHODOLOGY

NetNames looked at 50 TV, 50 print and 50 radio ads to analyse differences in domain use. Print media monitored were Times Magazine, Big Issue, Metro, GAT and Heat. The radio stations were Virgin Radio, Radio One, Heart 106.2, XFM and Kiss 100. The TV ads were shown on ITV.

NetNames surveyed 10 agencies in Campaign's top 15 listing (Feb 2003): Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, McCann-Erickson, Lowe, Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis, M&C Saatchi, J. Walter Thompson, Bates UK, WCRS and Grey Worldwide.

TOP TIPS ON DOMAIN NAMES

- Make sure the words making up the slogan don't read like something else, particularly not something rude, when they are run together.

- Think about registering variants on your slogan, using hyphens and different suffixes. For example, va-va-voom.co.uk and vavavoom.co.uk both lead to the Renault Clio web site.

- Don't abandon your audience when the slogan has run its course. Lucozade used three different straplines over three years for its Lara Croft promos: larazade.com and goneabitlara.com now point to the current web site, at loaditlikelara.com.

- A little bit of alliteration never did anyone any harm, particularly when it comes to creating memorable web addresses, as some of the domain names above show.

- If the web address contains numbers, it might be a good idea to register it as the word and the number, particularly if you are going to be promoting the domain through radio ads.

MANAGING SEVERAL DOMAIN NAMES

When it comes to domain names, a company doesn't just own its name with a dotcom at the end. It's likely to own any number of domain names, including corporate sites, campaign specific and product specific sites, along with variants on their spelling, hyphenation and suffix.

Some domain names will need to be renewed on a regular basis, while others will only be in existence for a certain length of time.

The Diamond Trading Company owns more than 600 domain names, including debeersgroup.com, adiamondisforever.com and forevermark.com.

"Most large companies now have portfolios of several hundred domain names, with multiple brands registered with multiple domain suffixes," says NetNames' Scott Davison.

"The challenge for these companies is the ongoing management of their domain names," he adds.

Large companies such as Centrica and Nestle, which have domain names for their various brands and divisions, are turning to domain name management companies, such as NetNames and Register.com, to manage registrations and renewals, and protect domain names.

"Through acquisitions and other business activity, we have inherited a number of domain-name portfolios and some domains are registered to people who no longer work with that company," says Chris Johnson, business systems manager at Centrica.

"We also used a number of different registration firms, which made things complicated," he says.

Centrica uses NetNames' Platinum service, which allows it to identify all the domains it has registered and to search them by keyword, brand name and intellectual property. It can also outsource registration and renewal. "In the past, we had a number of near misses when renewal forms were sent to people who had moved jobs," says Johnson.

Nestle signed up with Register.com at the end of last year and uses its Name Console tool to centralise the process of carrying out administrative tasks such as registrations, modifications, and renewals.

"With an expansive global presence, it is important that each of our operating companies are aware of our domain-name policies and, at the same time, are able to deal with domain names autonomously," points out Jean-Pierre Maeder, head of the trademark department at Nestle.

HEINZ TIES IN NEW SALAD CREAM SITE WITH TV SPONSORSHIP

FMCG giant Heinz is using its Salad Cream brand to sponsor soap Emmerdale for six months, with the new strapline 'It's all going on'. Ads drive traffic to the site (www.itsallgoingon.com), which was created by digital agency swamp.

Visitors to the new web site can watch the Salad Cream TV ads and forward them on to their friends in the form of e-cards, download a booklet of serving suggestions and check out the 'What's going on?' event calendar.

"The main reason for choosing the campaign-specific web address is that it sounds good and looks good on the ads - it rolls off the tongue," explains Paul Mallett, managing director of swamp.

"'It's all going on' refers to the soap-opera element, but there is also a message about the salad cream, which will encourage people to use it on food," he adds.

The web address (www.saladcream.com) also points to the 'It's all going on' site. Heinz didn't register any variations on the domain name, such as its-all-going-on.com, but it did register itsallgoingon.co.uk as well as the dotcom site.

"I think people tend to assume that a campaign-based site is a dotcom, but we decided to register the .co.uk just in case," explains Mallett.

Although the marketing strapline is relatively new, Heinz has used some of the most memorable slogans in advertising, such as 57 Varieties and Beanz Meanz Heinz, both of which are registered as domain names.

At the Beanz Meanz Heinz web site (www.beanzmeanzheinz.com), which has also been created by swamp, visitors can vote on whether the classic slogan should be kept. And they can suggest some new ones.

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