What’s the ROI on a $20m TLD auction?

Published on October 20th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Ryan Baker, ARI Registry Services’ Industry Consultant, offers insights into valuing a TLD and crafting a winning auction strategy to help applicants in contention sets secure their highly prized TLDs.

ICANN have taken a solid stance in regards to contention sets, with those yet to be resolved soon to be forced into auctions of last resort in the coming months. As expected, this has increased the velocity of private settlements between applicants, either via deals or private auctions.

It seems like most applicants (wisely) don’t want to see their funds going into ICANN coffers unnecessarily.

While the prices paid for TLDs at private auction are a closely guarded secret, talk abounds in industry circles of prices approaching US$20 million for some contention sets.

Are these prices an outstanding investment or sheer lunacy?

The answer lies in being able to implement a strategy that generates solid revenues, whilst understanding the true costs of running a TLD.

Take for example the .sex TLD which was recently reported as having sold for USD 3 million. Intuitively this could appear to be a bargain for perpetual ownership of such a strong keyword TLD, considering the size of the industry, and the fact that directly comparable but much less flexible assets sex.com and sex.xxx sold for $13 million and $3 million respectively.

Or was the price tempered given potential concerns of ‘unexpected’ delays or political concerns such as those that impacted the .xxx TLD or queries over the competitive impacts of .xxx, .adult, .porn etc.?

While domain industry hyperbole over auction prices may be no more than scuttlebutt, there can be no denying that there have been some exceptionally high auction prices through the transparent ICANN auction of last resort process, such as .vip ($3M), .buy ($4.5M) and .tech ($6.7M).

What price is too high to pay?

At some point, without an amazingly viral marketing campaign and a magically cheap operating plan, the operations of your TLD can send you broke within a short matter of time.

Having being tasked by some applicants to assist in this very issue, I’d like to share the first two questions I am generally asked when sitting down with customers to define a TLD auction strategy:

1. How do you appropriately value the asset to gain enough capital to win at auction?; and
2. At what price does this TLD become unsustainable in terms of ROI?

The answer to both of these questions can only be divined after comprehensive analysis of both sides of the ledger; the potential revenues AND the real-world costs. Each has their own significant considerations.

Revenue

Calculating forecasted registrations from Sunrise and ten years of operating is relatively simple.

However, smart applicants are thinking beyond just x% of the total target market * wholesale price and realizing that the real benefit of operating a TLD is in finding the hidden value of these complex assets.

The value in the key partnerships, spinoff properties, premium domain name sales and associated businesses (just to name a few) which will make far more revenue than just domain name sales.

Costs

The second part of any good analysis is costs.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and in the case of a TLD, you’ve got the obvious costs such as your registry, marketing and registrar management, and the not so obvious including managing ICANN compliance and dealing with an increasingly volatile regulatory environment.

Each of these has the potential to send your business spiraling backwards if not managed correctly.

Understanding and predicting all of these cost centres is one of the most important elements of working out your TLD’s potential ROI. To effectively complete this task, you really need the insight of folks that have been managing TLDs for many years.

Next steps?

Firstly, you’re not alone here. If all of this applies to you, you can rest assured that it’s impacting your competitors too.

However, it is time for you to get serious. If your auction strategy can achieve more ROI than your competitors, then you’ll enter the auction with a strategic advantage that could prove the difference in your one shot at securing your TLD

A good auction strategy relies on two fundamental principles:.

1. Knowing what value the TLD represents to you
2. Knowing what value the TLD represents to your competitors

If you aren’t absolutely certain you know the answer to the two elements above, you might be blowing your one and only chance.

Having a clear vision, a strong auction strategy and some help from those with experience in the process will ultimately decide whether you walk away on auction day with big frown or a profitable TLD.

By Ryan Baker
Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services

Grand Final marketing dominated by .com.au domain names

Published on October 8th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

This year’s AFL and NRL Grand Finals set viewership records for the number of people who tuned in to watch the matches.

A whopping 4.6 million people watched the Rabbitohs beat the Bulldogs on Sunday night, making it the highest rating television program this year. Meanwhile, the AFL Grand Final saw 4.2 million people tune in, which is no mean feat either.

Clearly, our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL and NRL Grand Finals to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found:

The stats

Like in previous years, .com.au domain names were the primary call to action seen in the ads for both Grand Finals. Out of the 55 ads aired during the games, 41% included a .com.au domain name while only 12% referred to a .com domain name.

Domain names were clearly the best on ground in terms of advertising call to actions. While social media holds a prominent place in advertising nowadays, it was left on the bench during the Grand Finals, with less than 10% of ads referencing either Twitter or Facebook.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw in 2013 and 2012.

Telephone numbers, mobile apps and search were the remaining calls to actions seen, while a quarter of ads chose to run with no call to action.

Implications

As I’ve reported over a number of years now, domain names – and in particular .com.au domain names – remain the mainstay of marketing calls to action.

The most interesting observation is the decline in use of social media in advertising. Despite all the hype around social, it appears marketers have reverted back to the tried and tested formula of domain names. Social has its place, it’s just not in Grand Final TV advertising.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs upwards of $100,000.

Social as a call to action

It seems the novelty of social has abated and Australian marketers are now integrating social as part of a wider digital strategy, instead of splashing it around in every advertising campaign.

On almost all occasions, social was introduced in conjunction with the domain name and not instead of it. This shows that marketers now have a greater appreciation of the role domain names and websites play in generating awareness and education, and the role social media plays in encouraging engagement and conversations.

Social has a place; it just isn’t the only place for a brand to exist.

Search as a call to action

One trend I have been following closely this year is the emergence of search-based calls to action. I was pleased to see that there was a stark drop in search calls to action in the advertisements at this year’s Grand Finals.

Brands such as Holden, ANZ, BMW, Harvey Norman and many others are increasingly ditching domain names in favour of directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website.

I’ve been a vocal critic of search-based calls to action (as you can read here in my blog) because I think they’re ineffective, unnecessary and provide competitors an opportunity to steal your customers.

For instance, in the NRL Grand Final, Holden directed viewers to search for ‘VF Changes Minds”. This is difficult for viewers to remember during an ad break and if they do get a chance to search for the term (as I did), they’ll also be exposed to a competitive environment and view search results from news stories, Holden dealers and automotive forums.

There’s no guarantee that searching for “VF Changes Minds” will result in someone visiting the Holden website and I think the practice is a wasted opportunity for customer engagement.

2015 Grand Finals

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here come 2015.

.com.au is Australia’s home on the Internet and it will remain the authoritative source of truth for Australian businesses online. When given the chance to engage with more than 4 million Australian TV viewers, a .com.au domain name is the perfect call to action.

What will change by 2015 is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl are being launched, offering marketers an additional option in their ‘.menu’ of calls to action.

Only last week we launched the .melbourne Top-Level Domain and savvy brands such as the Bank of Melbourne, Melbourne Festival, Flower Drum Restaurant and The Marriner Group have become some of the first businesses to adopt a .melbourne web address. Check out www.live.melbourne for more information.

Come Grand Final time 2015, we expect many more major brands to be sporting a .melbourne, .sydney or any other type of new domain name alongside their .com.au web address.

There are many benefits for adopting one of these new domains, from potential improvements to SEO and message recall, to being able to get the exact match name you always wanted.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact of new Top-Level Domains next year and I hope to see a .melbourne or .sydney domain featured next in year’s Grand Finals.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Insights from ARI’s new TLD workshop

Published on September 2nd, 2014

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

Never let it be said that group therapy isn’t effective.

Prior to hosting a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) workshop for a group of Australian applicants last week, the only therapy I would have advised for new TLD applicants was electroshock therapy – given the confidence-sapping delays and the catastrophic impact of constant changes to the program such as Digital Archery, Name Collisions and GAC Advice.

Fortunately, most applicants have been able to prevail in spite of the issues – to their immense credit – and that’s probably why I’m a new TLD strategy consultant and not a psychiatrist!

Last Wednesday, approximately 25 attendees came to Melbourne for a community-building session to give them the opportunity to share success stories, challenges, discuss launch strategies and learn about the latest developments within the new TLD program.

While the content of the various presentations was helpful, the key take away for many applicants was one simple fact; you’re not alone! There is no comparison to hearing a fellow applicant discuss their challenges and what worked for them.

All attendees left with the feeling that it’s not all doom and gloom, and it was also flattering to hear the generous feedback our clients provided about relying on a trusted partner like ARI Registry Services for both their technology and advisory needs.

ARI's new TLD workshop

Presentations

We were treated to thought-provoking presentations from applicants who generously offered a rare glimpse into the strategies they employed (or will employ) to launch their TLDs.

For instance, Glenn Ruscoe, the applicant for .physio, spoke of his passion for the profession and how through the use of a robust TLD strategy and focused efforts for his target audiences he hopes to create a digital asset that will underpin the entire physiotherapy community around the world.

We also heard from Monash University’s Andrew Norman about the marketing and PR success they received around the launch of the world’s first .brand – .monash – and their new www.destination.monash promotional website.

Finally, Bob Turner from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation spoke with passion as he described their innovative approach to positioning .cancerresearch as a global education tool capable of raising research funds for the fight against cancer.

Personally, it’s an absolute privilege for me to contribute to the development of these TLDs via our strategic consulting program and I feel honoured every day to work with these inspirational digital thought-leaders.

Also on the day, ARI Registry Services’ subject matter experts provided helpful advice to attendees on the topics of ICANN compliance, TLD strategy, the contracting process and navigating the ICANN ecosystem.

Interestingly, the topic applicants seemed most interested in was when they heard ARI Registry Services’ compliance expert Yasmin Omer speak about ICANN compliance and the audit process. Yasmin went into detail about how dotShabaka Registry recently responded to the audit regime and what applicants needed to do to prepare for this.

The event was an unquestionable success, driven by a willingness of all attendees to share their thoughts and experiences to generate insightful discussions. We will certainly be doing more of these events, both domestically and internationally via webinars and online forums in the coming months.

The key message, in the words of Michael Jackson – you are not alone.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

Is racing.com a half-million dollar mistake for Racing Victoria?

Published on August 15th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

What’s a domain name? What business function do they serve? Can a domain name generate ROI?

I imagine these were the questions the Board of Racing Victoria asked before signing off on the purchase of racing.com to support a Victorian racing industry joint initiative to establish a digital media and content platform similar to that of the AFL.

My industry sources suggest the domain name cost them at least half a million dollars, if not higher. Allow me, from a marketing perspective, to explain why the purchase of racing.com is tantamount to flogging a dead horse.

Vision and execution

A domain name is the digital asset that underpins your entire web presence and acts as a universal signpost to help guide an audience to your website.

In many ways, they’re the mainstay execution tool of nearly every marketing strategy you create.

Marketers constantly push the innovation envelope in search of more visionary methods to engage stakeholders. However, a vision without effective execution is merely an hallucination.

For me, effective execution is creating a signpost that let’s your audience know exactly what your proposition is even before they land on your website.

And with the rise of search-based call to actions and QR codes in marketing, I’m inclined to think some marketers are completely missing this point.

In the case of racing.com, the vision to establish an industry leading content platform is worthy of praise. It’s let down though by an ineffective signpost.

What is racing.com?

The problem with underpinning a $15 million digital media business under racing.com is that it fails the signpost test.

Let’s think about it for a second. What is racing? Is the word synonymous with horse racing? Not really. What about car racing, boat racing or bike racing? Perhaps you’re talking about pigeon racing!

When I Googled the word racing, the first result was a news item about American NASCAR racing.

Also, what inference does the .com add? Where is .com located? What does it stand for? Does it tell your target audience that your business is focused on Victoria? Certainly not.

The domain name racing.com is not a very useful signpost to direct people to a website about horse racing in Victoria, Australia. It’s too generic, won’t be assisted by search and is a poor execution of a good vision.

Recall

Now let’s try the radio recall test.

Imagine you heard an ad on the radio for Victoria’s new digital horse racing news platform and there was a call to action at the end of the ad for racing.com. What do you think most people would remember about the ad and how would they act upon it?

I think the theme of horse racing in Victoria would be the strongest key message. Whilst you might remember a mention of a .com web address, my intuitive reaction would be to visit horseracing.com or Racing Victoria’s corporate website.

Interestingly, our research shows Australians have been conditioned to visit websites ending in .au when looking for locally-based content. This is because .au is Australia’s home online.

My experience tells me that an ad for racing.com in Australia will leak a lot of traffic to racing.com.au, which is unfortunately owned by betting company Tabcorp. That’s a nice win for Tabcorp!

The problem is that racing.com does not have an intrinsic connection with Victorian horse racing that would lend itself to intuitive navigation and recall.

.com .gone

The most unfortunate aspect about the decision to pay a high-end, six-figure sum for racing.com is the fact domain names are now radically transforming.

Hundreds of new domain name suffixes such as .menu, .monash and .sydney are being added to the Internet alongside the familiar .com, offering individuals and businesses like Racing Victoria greater domain name availability, choice and innovation.

Unlike the meaningless and unintuitive .com, these new domain names allow for a clear and descriptive signpost that lets your audience know exactly what your business is about even before they land on your website. They provide an affinity to a geographic location or market vertical that .com is unable to do.

Take for instance .racing which is set to launch soon. It would offer a more creative and relevant domain name such as horses.racing, victorian.racing or vichorses.racing.

Another option would be .melbourne. Country-level geographic locators such as .au, .nz and .uk have helped organise the Internet and now we have the option to take this to the city-level. I’m not saying racing.melbourne or horses.melbourne is appropriate, but it would be somewhat more specific.

There is also a .horse Top-Level Domain and almost 1,400 other options that will become available over the next year.

The fact is, the launch and use of these new domain names will soon make the purchase of half-million dollar .com domain names look silly.

It’s all about connecting your vision with an intuitive, memorable and efficient signpost.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

The World Cup of new Top-Level Domains

Published on June 13th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Tony Kirsch

In celebration of O Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game), we thought it was timely to do a World Cup themed wrap-up this week and showcase the new Top-Level Domains (TLD) of the football world.

Let’s start with which countries are winning in the World Cup of new TLDs.

While Brazil might be favourites for the FIFA World Cup, the United States smashed the field with the most number of new TLD applications (883 or 46% all applications).

Now that new TLDs have launched, where are the most registrations coming from? Again, the United States leads the way with 275,602 domain names (or 25.8% of the 1.1 million combined names). This is followed by Germany (12.5%), the United Kingdom (6.8%), Cayman Islands (4.6%) and Canada (3.8%).

What about .football? While .soccer (four applicants) and .football (two applicants) are stuck in contention sets, we did see .futbol (Spanish for Football) enter its first day of general availability yesterday with 1,628 registrations.

We can’t forget to mention World Cup cities too. Brazil’s famous Rio de Janeiro had their .rio city TLD delegated on 22 May. Rio will host the final World Cup match on 13 July and let’s hope we see some .rio domain names live in time for this match.

The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and we’ll no doubt see the world’s major brands using their new TLDs by then. Eight new TLDs were applied for from Russia, with two for their capital city, .moscow and their IDN .москва.

I can’t wait until I’ll be able to navigate the Internet intuitively by browsing to websites such as WorldCup.moscow, or Football.nike and Campaign.sony. I predict that in four years time we’ll look back at this moment as the dawn of the modern Internet and vaguely remember a web without new TLDs.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

Still think .brands might be a waste of time? Google doesn’t!

Published on May 7th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

The new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program was designed from the outset to enhance competition and foster innovation.

It was a great result for the wider industry to see approximately one-third of the applications received by ICANN submitted by some of the world’s largest companies seeking to own and operate their own .brand TLD.

Even with organisations such as Apple, Citibank and IBM applying for their respective TLDs, scepticism remained on the potential for .brands to succeed.

Where would the utility come from? How would customers embrace such a change? How would large organisations be able to incorporate this into their marketing mix?

Finally perhaps most ominous, what will it mean for search and will there be any advantages for .brand applicants?

While it’s still very early in the process, a few trailblazing true innovators have given us some preliminary answers and the news is extremely positive.

Evidence of real success

French insurance giant AXA recently launched their .axa TLD to the world and offer the best evidence to date that .brand TLDs have a definite future in the digital marketing landscape.

Less than two weeks after registering annualreport.axa and rapportannuel.axa in their .brand TLD, AXA now appear on the first page of Google search results. When searching for “axa annual report”, the .axa domain is the third result in English and “axa annuel rapport” appears in the fourth position for French searches.

Beyond just Google, Bing shows the result at number two and Yahoo at number eight.

This is a truly impressive result given the number of applicable web properties for this topic and the short amount of time the domain has existed. Yes, this has a lot to do with the relevance of the content – as it has been and will continue to be.

However, the domain is clearly reinforcing some level of credibility here and despite being new, hasn’t negatively impacted the rankings of the page.

The AXA annual report example also illustrates other key benefits of .brand TLD ownership. Using differing language versions of the same domain, they have been able to provide customised content for differing user bases.

With these included, the list of tangible benefits .brand TLD operators can realise immediately from their new asset are compelling:

1. Control

Being completely in control of domain name allocation within their TLD. No more competition for domain names in the open market, as well as the ability to define intuitive parameters for users to find content (eg. annualreport.axa for English, rapportannuel.axa for French).

2. SEO

Globally applicable search benefits. While the sample size is admittedly small, the reality that Google, Bing and Yahoo are actively embracing .brand TLDs for their authenticity and showing strong search results has the potential to be a huge boon to brands and end users.

3. Messaging

Guaranteed authenticity for messaging from the channel. Customers can rest easy knowing with 100% certainty that the content on annualreport.axa is sanctioned by AXA, since no one outside the corporation can register an .axa domain name. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible for bad actors to register domains in competing TLDs with the aim of confusing end users, and a .brand is a new and extremely strong tool to combat this confusion.

AXAdomain

AXA’s .brand strategy actively combats bad actors.

While we’ve already seen three new .brand applicants sign registry agreements (.sharp and Google’s .gmail and .youtube) this month, the last several months have seen 256 total TLDs delegated, with only a handful (five total, or less that 2%) being .brands.

This is in addition to the world’s first .brand TLD, .monash for the Australian University and the recently signed .bmw and .samsung TLDs which are soon to join the digital landscape.

All in all, it’s really positive news for those innovators that took the plunge by applying in 2012.

So why wait?

There is no denying that ICANN has made the path through contracting and delegation complicated with various hoops to jump through.

The good news for .brand applicants is that there is help available should they require it. The upside is that the carrot is very real and very attainable.

Delegating and realising the benefits of a .brand TLD as soon as possible should be the goal of every brand marketer worth their salt, as .brand applicants push to delegate their TLDs and non-applicants clamour to apply to ICANN in the second round.

By Ryan Baker
Domain Name Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services

Registration numbers not the only success measure for new TLDs

Published on March 19th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

Since the delegation of شبكة. back in October, we’ve seen all sorts of TLDs launched – from brands like .monash to generics like .build.

There has been intense scrutiny within our industry on the zone file registration numbers of these delegated TLDs to measure whether or not they are successful.

To be fair, this is not a surprise. We’ve been conditioned by past generic TLD launches to focus on registration numbers. Whether it was .mobi, .travel, .info or.co, all previous TLDs have been measured on registration volume – and more worryingly against the benchmark of .com.

Despite being the new TLD program, many in our industry are still persisting with their old TLD ways of thinking.

How will these same people measure the success of .brands and .geos? Remember, it’s a whole new ball game which requires a different way of thinking because the goal posts have moved.

Early numbers mean nothing

The fact that .guru has 40,000 domain name registrations and .graphics only has 4000 means nothing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Outlandish claims like those seen by .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell that .club will overtake .guru in week one are symptomatic of our industry’s naive focus on raw numbers over qualitative results.

Even my own marketing team is guilty of getting caught up in the hype of zone file number reporting. I had to remind them via Twitter recently that there are many ways of determining a top performing new TLD.

The fact of the matter is, raw numbers mean nothing and a focus on use, engagement, purpose and sustainable revenues are far better measures of success.

What is success?

New TLD operators should be judged on their whole-of-business operational performance to take account of stakeholder engagement, customer satisfaction, strategy planning and financial modeling.

Don’t get me wrong, domain name registration numbers matter. It’s just that you can’t determine the success or failure of a new TLD by comparing it to other TLDs. You can only judge a TLD against its intended purpose and strategy.

Think about .brand TLDs for a second. Registration numbers mean nothing and their entire model is based on how their TLD is integrated into the organisation’s digital strategy. Geographics and IDNs also have a very different proposition than traditional generics.

In attempting to measure success, I’d suggest onlookers focus on:

1. Use: Is the namespace being used in a meaningful way and is there evidence of usage and development with the domain names? Are registrants building businesses and content within the namespace?
2. Sustainable revenues: Who is registering domain names and what is the prospect for renewals? Will the TLD retain registrations or do registrants see it as a fad?
3. Trust: Will end users come to trust the namespace and the content hosted within it? Are these registrants helping to establish trust in the namespace?
4. Purpose: What’s the mission and purpose of the namespace (question 18) and are the registration numbers and content living up to these aspirations?
5. Audience: Is the registry operator targeting a clearly defined audience? Is that audience responsive to the product being offered?

Ask yourself, in the first month of general availability for a generic TLD, would you rather have 10,000 parked domain names registered by domainers with little likelihood of long-term renewal, or would you opt for 100 domain name registrations by major global brands in your target audience who use your namespace to host their entire website?

A strategy reliant on defensive registrations and parked domains is doomed to fail – and is completely ignorant of the new market dynamics within the industry.

In any case, it’s still far too early to accurately measure the long-term viability of any new TLD. But a focus away from registration numbers and an emphasis on use and purpose would be more appropriate.

TLDs like شبكة. haven’t even started their marketing and awareness campaigns yet and the impact of name collisions is holding back many operators from fully implementing their strategic plan to deliver their mission and purpose.

Remember, the game has changed and so have the goal posts.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Published on February 5th, 2014

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2014 was the year of the hashtag as marketers directed their consumers to Twitter to continue the brand conversation online.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 4 February 2014, direct from New York

This week, I had the fortune of crossing off a major item on my bucket list – attending Super Bowl. In spite of my team’s absence from the game, it was still a huge – albeit early – highlight of 2014 for me.

Super Bowl is the ultimate merging of my passion for sports and marketing. It brings together people from all walks, catering to the millions of people who tune in to be entranced by the game or the ads, or like me, both.

For three hours on Sunday night, marketers globally tuned into the excitement that emanated out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII 2014.

Neither the brilliance of the Seattle Seahawks nor the creative genius of the marketers let me down.

Let’s not underestimate the significance of the occasion.

With more than 100 million viewers tuning in, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Advertisers coughed up $4 million on average for each 30-second slot, translating to $133,000 per second!

As I do every year, I investigated how advertisers used this prime marketing opportunity to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found.

#Dominate

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, hashtags and Twitter handles absolutely dominated the calls to action seen in the 85 ads aired from the 44 different advertisers.

More than half of all ads (64%) included a Twitter hashtag or handle as their call to action, compared to only 41% which referred to a domain name to direct viewers to a website.

These results are markedly different from what we saw in previous years.

Yearly change

Looking back over the past few years, we can clearly see an upward trend in marketers directing viewers to Twitter to encourage brand engagement and interaction.

In last year’s Super Bowl, domain names were the preferred call to action, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. We only saw 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag.

This gap was even larger in 2012, with 49% of ads containing a domain name and only 9% a Twitter handle or hashtag.

Facebook Dis-Like

Perhaps the most significant observation was that Facebook was seemingly left on the bench for Super Bowl 2014, with only 9% of ads directing viewers to a Facebook page.

Google+ didn’t even make it out of the locker room, with not a single mention. Shazam was the surprise dark horse of the pack, picking up two ads, while YouTube was seen in a total of three ads.

What does this mean?

Clearly, generating a social conversation about your brand or product online via the use of a hashtag dominated the strategic thinking of marketers in this year’s Super Bowl.

I suspect this is a reflection of the fact that a Super Bowl ad offers marketers a chance to extend the reach of a compelling thirty-second TV spot well beyond the night it airs. Hashtags keep the conversation going beyond the little blue bird, used to generate trending topics across Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and of course Twitter.

However, I still firmly believe that the mainstay of any direct response marketing strategy should always be a domain name and website. We still saw 41% of ads containing a domain name and that’s because these marketers recognised that a call to action which directs consumers to your website is a proven method to generated return on investment.

While encouraging a conversation on a hashtag has its place, I believe the most successful ads were the ones where marketers also used a domain name call to action to complement their social media efforts.

Super Bowl 2015

It’s my prediction that the upward trend with hashtags will carry on and next year marketers will continue to use the combination of domain names and hashtags for their calls to action.

However, what will change will be the domain names themselves!

Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .menu, .build and .luxury are being launched offering marketers an additional option in their arsenal of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

Major brands such as Hyundai, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford are leading the way with these new domains and have applied for their own .brand suffixes. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Super Bowl, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as product.microsoft or promotion.ford on our TV screens.

These new domains will give marketers a new level of creativity with their calls to action. They’ll enable advertisers to deliver a highly personal experience and allow viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to become mainstream over the next few months. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I’m anticipating some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for Super Bowl 2015.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Marketers place trust in domain names for AFL Grand Final

Published on October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisAnother year, another grand final and another win for domain names. Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says domain names are the premiers as Australia’s marketers again show a preference for using .com.au as the preferred call to action in AFL Grand Final ads.

By Adrian Kinderis

It surprises me that our local marketing industry hasn’t yet embraced the AFL and NRL Grand Finals as the marketers in the US do for the Super Bowl.

Where’s the hype like you see for the Super Bowl? I think our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia. We should see the country’s best marketers sporting their wares.

They certainly have a good reason to. More than 3.6 million Australians tuned in on Saturday for the AFL Grand Final, representing more than 80% of all free-to-air viewers for the time slot.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL Grand Final to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found…

The statistics

Like in previous years, domain names were the primary call to action seen in Grand Final ads. Out of the 34 ads aired during the game, 40% included a domain name while only 9% referred to social media.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw last year with almost identical figures (38% and 9% respectively).

The other significant calls to action exercised this year included of telephone numbers (14%), search (9%) and mobile apps (7%). Interestingly, 21% of ads did not include any call to action.

Within domain names, marketers clearly showed a preference for .com.au in their ads, with more than 70% directing viewers to a .com.au website. Again, this is almost identical to last year.

What does this mean?

Clearly, social media has its place, but it’s not in Grand Final marketing.

Despite all the hype and importance of social media to modern day brand communication, domain names still remain the primary call to action. While we saw NAB make effective use of a Twitter hashtag in their Footify campaign, they largely stood alone on this front.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs up to $100,000.

However, it was interesting to see the rise of search which tallied a 7% rise in the number of ads directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website. The Australian Defence Force and Holden were the major brands utilising this method.

I’ve been a vocal critic (as you can read in my recent Marketing Magazine blog) of this emerging trend, and these statistics confirm my observations that marketers are relying on search in greater numbers. It is narrow minded, short sighted thinking and it needs to change.

Future trends

It’s my prediction that marketers will make a big splash for the 2014 AFL and NRL Grand Finals.

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here. Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

By early 2014, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl will be launched, offering marketers an additional option in their menu of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

In Australia, local brands such as the AFL, TAB, iiNet, ANZ and RMIT are leading the way with these new domains. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Grand Final, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as sponsor.afl, product.tab or promotion.rmit on our TV screens.

If you take this year’s TVCs as an example, it is possible that in the future we could see the TAB use a domain name call to action tailored specifically for the Grand Final, such as www.grandfinal.tab or even specific content like www.firstgoal.tab. This would allow the TAB to deliver a highly personal experience and enable viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

Also, brands that have not purchased their own .brand domain can purchase domain names under .melbourne or .sydney to create targeted campaigns that have a direct affiliation with either city.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to appear on the Internet from next year. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I think we’ll see some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for the 2014 Grand Final.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Looking internally for the success of your TLD strategy

Published on October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, discusses the importance of getting internal support for the success of your .brand Top-Level Domain strategy.

By Tony Kirsch

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting at the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress in London on how to create a TLD strategy and activate your path to market for launch.

Some of the best and brightest minds in the industry attended and it was encouraging to hear from major brands such as Phillips, Microsoft, Google and KPMG, as well as a variety of other applicants.

While in my previous blog I discussed why a .brand TLD strategy is important, let’s now delve deeper into engagement strategies and why this is the key to a successful .brand.

Why do I need internal engagement?

Internal engagement is a critical element of a TLD strategy because your .brand TLD is going to impact every aspect of your organisation. From technology to marketing and even customer service, everyone in your organisation needs to be engaged in your TLD strategy at differing degrees.

While you may have already engaged key decision makers during the process of applying for a new TLD, many haven’t sought the necessary strategic input across the organisation – something that is extremely challenging for multinational enterprises (and for some of their consultants!!).

You have to appreciate that how one department approaches your .brand TLD might be different to another department.

However, done correctly, your TLD strategy is the perfect mechanism to align key department’s .brand aspirations with your organisational goals.

Who should you engage internally?

Ideally, the critical areas of your business to target are your C-Suite executives, IT infrastructure and systems teams, digital, brand, legal and marketing departments. This is where the key decision makers lie who can make or break your .brand.

You should also consider bringing in the finance department, PR and internal communications teams, and any agency support your organisation receives from digital, branding and advertising specialists.

Finally, don’t forget that even though you are a .brand, you’ll need to engage your Registrar too (if you haven’t already done so).

Remember, engaging with some internal audiences might be a challenge because there are still people out there that don’t know anything about new TLDs.

Change management

Adopting a .brand is a massive change for any organisation.

It’s important to remember that change is never easy and often clouded in risk as people intuitively resist transformation.

This is why your TLD strategy serves two purposes: 1) To provide purposeful direction in the launch of your TLD; and 2) To act as a mechanism to engage internally and gain the support of your key stakeholders.

The reality is that you’re not only taking ownership of your .brand strategy, you will also be seen as the change facilitator. Leaders of large change programs must take responsibility for generating the critical mass movement in favor of the change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement; it demands complete ownership of the entire change process.

The five steps

I detail these steps in far greater depth during our TLD strategy workshop sessions. At a high level, below are the five key elements you should consider as part of internal engagement for your TLD strategy:

1. De-risk

A successful TLD strategy will need to take a ‘whole of business’ approach if it’s to be effective. Remove the target from your back by involving key stakeholders early and de-risk your .brand TLD investment.

2. Get support from your TLD advisors

Get support from your trusted TLD advisors to guide you through the process. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

3. Secure budget

You’ve made an investment in a core piece of Internet infrastructure. Now it’s time to activate this investment. Engage internally to make a business case to secure budget.

4. Get internal resources

You can’t do this yourself. Collaborate and consult with key stakeholders in all departments to share the load. It’s often far more effective to have others champion the cause for you.

5. Align with corporate goals

Does your .brand TLD strategy reflect your organisation’s mission, vision and values? Now’s the time to engage every department to get collective buy-in.

Your plan

You’re building something from scratch and you need to get your plans in place. Internal engagement is the key to successful project planning and management.

Think about the construction of a house. You would never build a new house without detailed plans.

Similarly, with the creation of your TLD strategy, you should facilitate constructive internal engagement so you can build a plan that provides visibility across all facets of your business operations – and provide a digital platform for your organisation for many, many years to come.

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and is employed by ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.