Cybersquatters – Online Street Thugs

The process of registering the domain names of other people’s trademarks with the intent to sell them back to them at a profit.

 Back when the internet was first getting started this was a popular practice.  According to NOLO’s law encyclopedia, the history of cybersquatting originated at a time when most businesses were not savvy about the commercial opportunities on the Internet. Some entrepreneurial souls registered the names of well-known companies as domain names, with the intent of selling the names back to the companies when they finally woke up. Panasonic, Fry’s Electronics, Hertz and Avon were among the “victims” of cybersquatters. Opportunities for cybersquatters are rapidly diminishing, because most businesses now know that nailing down domain names is a high priority (

You would think that instances of cybersquatting would be diminishing as more people are aware of the potential of the internet for their company.  Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.  In 2008 companies and celebrities ranging from Arsenal football club to actress Scarlett Johansson filed a record number of “cybersquatting” cases to stop others from profiting from their famous names, brands and events. (

Web sites in dispute in 2008 included references to Madrid’s 2016 Olympics bid, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), Yale University, Research in Motion’s Blackberry as well as Arsenal and Johansson, and company names such as eBay, Google and Nestle.

 Jay Leno won a cybersquatting case earlier this year against a Texas man found by a U.N. agency to have misused the domain name to direct Internet users to a real estate website (  In a ruling issued in July, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said Leno had common law trademark rights to his name after a 30-year career in entertainment, even though Guadalupe Zambrano registered the site in 2004.  Additionally, real estate agent Zambrano did not have any legitimate rights to the disputed web address and had registered it in “bad faith,” according to the ruling.

People like Scarlett Johansson and Jay Leno and companies like Google and eBay can afford to fight their cybersquatters.  However, smaller companies and not-so-famous individuals may not.  Currently, if you are a victim of cybersquatting, you have 2 choices:

  •  sue under the provisions of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), or
  • use an international arbitration system created by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

 Even with a victory, no amount of money can relieve the victim’s feeling that something was stolen from them and their anger that they have to fight to get it back.  Cybersquatters are online street thugs.


Add a comment October 26, 2009

Search Advertising Update

By now most people know that when performing a search on Google or Yahoo the results to the far side and/or in a shaded area at the top of the page are advertisements. 

 Google Search results

 The one thing consumers may not know is that some search engines (including Yahoo!) allow companies to pay to have their link appear at the top of the actual search results.

This topic was discussed at length in my Emerging Media class, but we all agreed that this practice was at best border-line unethical.    It seems we weren’t the only ones.  According to, Yahoo has announced that it will be canceling Yahoo Search Submit Pro (Y!SSP), its fixed-rate cost-per-click program, as of Dec. 31 (

 Also known as “paid inclusion,” this service enables marketers to submit their URLs and page information directly to the Yahoo natural search web index, rather than having Yahoo crawl them via its primary web-indexing technology (known as SLURP). By submitting pages via Y!SSP, marketers have better control over the content that Yahoo searches and displays for their web site listings.

Y!SSP is a valuable tool in any marketer’s SEO toolbox. While many consider the program controversial, in truth it serves as an effective way for marketers to provide highly structured, timely data to Yahoo to improve the content of their web listings.

 They can dress it up all they want.  I think Yahoo! didn’t want to be considered unethical so they are dropping the practice.

 Yippee!  One less reason for marketers to be considered sneaky;-)

Add a comment October 26, 2009

Honda’s Social Experiment

A friend of mine was looking to purchase a new car recently and knowing I am better at internet research than she is, she asked me to help.  One of the things I found was Honda’s “Social Experiment” (

 According to, Honda quietly launched an official Facebook page, themed “Everybody Knows Somebody Who Loves a Honda,” to recruit fans of the brand. Owners are encouraged to join as overall Honda fans as well as fans of a specific model, and to learn how they are connected to friends, family members and other owners around the world. Visitors can upload photos of their cars or link up to owners of their favorite old Honda.

Honda initially supported the site with a sprinkling of ads on Facebook. “It wasn’t a big media buy, but it got a lot of attention,” said Tom Peyton, senior manager-national advertising. Earlier this month, TV was added to the mix, with 15- and 30-second spots featuring actual owners. These ads played during shows such as “30 Rock,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Dancing With the Stars” and NFL football.

 The campaign far exceeded Honda’s expectations.  Mr. Peyton thought at the onset that if they got one million connections “it would be cool”.  Currently they have more than 2 million Facebook fans on their site.

 I own a Honda CR-V and love it.  That being said, this campaign reminds me of one from one of my previous vehicles – Saturn – only online.Honda CR-V

 Before driving off the lot with your new Saturn, your salesperson would take your photo with your car for their Wall of Fame.  Additionally, reunions were scheduled each year in Spring Hill, TN (home of Saturn) and in your local region.  I actually attended one for the SoCal crowd at Knott’s Berry Farm one year.Saturn white coupe

 Now the Saturn brand is no more 😦 but GM changed the face of car buying and ownership in their time.  It seems Honda thought so too; they have just updated their methods to include social media.

1 comment October 26, 2009

How big is Facebook’s Slice of the Social Pie?

Facebook_PieAccording to a recent report released last week by Experian Hitwise: Facebook accounted for nearly six in 10 US visits to social networking websites in September, making it the uncontested leader among the custom category of 155 networks that Experian Hitwise tracks. US visits to Facebook increased 194 percent from September 2008 to September 2009 (

 Social Media Market Share

 Twitter has the largest gain of market share with 1170 percent.  Clearly Twitter is the rising star, but how soon the star burns out is yet to be determined.  Believe it or not, MySpace is still in business and actually had the second-highest market share as well as the longest average time spent on the site.  However, their average of 25 minutes and 56 seconds per visit was down from 2008 by 12%, while Facebook increased their average times by 23%.
Social Media Time Spent

Add a comment October 26, 2009

Mobile Advertising to iPhone Users

According to Mobile-marketing company Brand in Hand, whose clients include Proctor & Gamble, women aged 19-to-49 have performed the worst on measures of engagement of mobile advertising (  What does that mean?  Well in both trials and 60 mobile campaigns run in over the past 2 years, Brand in Hand has found that women are less engaged with mobile web advertising than their counterparts who use cell phones with conventional features.

Why is that? According to Brand in Hand’s co-founder and managing partner, John Hadl, female iPhone users, especially so-called super-moms, are task-oriented and tend to use their smartphones to help them get things done, leaving them little time for brand interaction. They’re also likely to be using an app; the “vast majority” of iPhone traffic occurs within applications rather than on the mobile web, according to ad network AdMob.

The good news here is that women aged 18-49 carrying smartphones only account for approximately 3% of the total cell-phone population.  Until smartphones truly take hold in the next few years, mobile marketing plans will be designed for traditional cell-phones.  Finally – I am not behind the times;-)  I guess maybe I don’t need a smartphone quite yet.

Add a comment October 26, 2009

The Power of Mommy Bloggers

Proctor & Gamble Co. is launching their revamped quarterly custom beauty magazine, Rouge with it (  The packaged goods giant is planning on building their database by relying on mommy bloggers to spread the word.  The quarterly is free and comes loaded with coupons, two sure ways to catch the Mommy Bloggers’ attention.

But P&G isn’t just relying on social media to build the Rouge database. It’s also sending Rouge to consumers identified as “beauty involved” when they signed up on a P&G Beauty brand web site such as or, or by “being active in beauty through various beauty magazine subscriptions as well as buying beauty products,” the spokesman said. A change P&G made to its online privacy policy last year, allowing P&G brands to share information among their various web sites, is helping pave the way to build Rouge. The spokesman said consumers can opt in or out of the program at any time.

This move coincides with the cancellation of P&G sponsored Guiding Light after 72 years on the radio and TV.  Soap Operas were the best way to reach Mommies in their heyday.  It seems P&G is keeping up with the times and the Mommies.

 What do you think?

1 comment October 26, 2009

Online profile makeovers

No, this isn’t about cartooning yourself.  😉

Estee Lauder is offering free makeovers and photo sessions at its department-store cosmetics counters across the nation to produce shots women can use for their online profiles (

Though famous for their “gifts with purchase” campaigns for decades, no purchase is required for these gifts. However, the profile photos include the Estee Lauder logo in the background, which, assuming they aren’t Photoshopped into oblivion, could give the brand lasting presence on Facebook beyond its own 27,000-member plus fan page. The promotion is being plugged on that page, as well as on Estee Lauder’s website, and the company is also using PR to spread the word.

With a target age of 35 to 55, Estee Lauder consumers aren’t necessarily prototypical social-media mavens. But the promotion has a dual strategy, said spokeswoman Tara Eisenberg: helping contemporize the brand for younger women while recognizing that somewhat older women have rapidly embraced social media, too.

One of’s writers, Kunur Patel, gave the promotion a try (   She thought she looked more than LinkedIn, but overall enjoyed the experience.  Here are her “before” and “after” shots:


 Currently, the promotion is only available in SoCal, NYC, Miami and Chicago.  If they ever get to Nashville, I will definitely give it a try.  What about you?

Add a comment October 26, 2009

Search Advertising by Pharmaceutical Companies

As a toddler would say, “All gone!”

Thanks to the warning letters the FDA sent to 14 drug companies in March, pharmaceutical companies have ceased all search advertising marketing.  The FDA’s position is that the sponsored-link advertisements for specific drugs were misleading due to the exclusion of risk information associated with the drug.

The pharmaceutical companies thought they complied with the unwritten “one-click rule” where they took the consumer from the ad to a site that offered fair balance and the risk information with one click on the ad.

What this really means is there are no clear cut rules for pharmaceutical companies advertising on the web in this day and age.  As mentioned in my previous post, the FDA plans to rectify this in November with 2 days of public hearings to begin to establish such guidelines.  Comment letters will then be accepted through February 2010.  It could then take up to one year for the draft guidelines to be published, accept more comments from the public, and then publish final guidelines.  That will be 2011.  15 years after the last set of internet guidelines were published.  Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 15 years to publish more updates.  Imagine where the web could be then…

Add a comment October 26, 2009

How do pharmaceutical companies use social media?

That’s what the FDA wants to know. 

According to, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a two-day public hearing in November on how pharmaceutical companies use the web and social-media tools to market their products ( ).

The industry is embracing the news, despite the newfound regulatory heavy hand the FDA has shown under the Obama administration. “It’s about time,” said an executive for one top-five pharmaceutical company who asked not to be identified. “Any guidance at all is better than having no guidance, which is what we have right now.”

The FDA will hold hearings on Nov. 12-13 in Washington.. “This meeting and the written comments are intended to help guide FDA in making policy decisions on the promotion of human and animal prescription drugs and biologics and medical devices using the Internet and social media tools,” part of the notice read.

“It’s about time” is right.  The FDA hasn’t addressed the issue of pharmaceutical advertising on the web since 1996.  The web has come a long way since then – MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter were years away.

The dilemma of not having regulatory guidelines for marketing via such tools as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and websites, came to a head in April of this year when the FDA sent warning letters to 14 companies for search-engine ads that the FDA said violated regulations regarding presentation of fair balance. The industry countered that the regulations requiring disclosure of risk information in print and broadcast ads should not be applied to internet ads that only contain 12 words on Google ads, or 140 characters on Twitter.

More on this in my next post.

Add a comment October 26, 2009

Can Twitter make or break a movie?

Think about it.  Back in the day, people who went to a movie on the opening weekend did not have an opportunity to speak with many others who had already seen it.  I don’t mean the critics who rarely accurate predict if the public will like a movie or not.  Or one or two of your friends.  I mean a large group of people from all walks of life.  Even the box office tally had more to do with the marketing campaign leading up to the opening.  It was usually the second weekend that told the tale – did the movie have any staying power?  Were movie-goers saying good things to their friends and co-workers?  Were they going to see the movie for a second time? 

No need to wait that long now, thanks to Twitter.  After the first few showings of any movie you just need to go to the movie’s Twitter page or search for the title to see what people are saying about it.  Good?  Bad?  Worth the full ticket price or matinee only?  Wait for DVD?

According to, market research firm 360i recently tested Twitter’s effect on moviegoers by comparing Twitter traffic for “Bruno” during its first weekend at the box office with three other summer films (  The results – “Bruno” had the highest percent of drop-off in second-day box office grosses (-39%) and negative tweets (21%).  Granted, not everyone wants to see Sacha Baron Cohen naked, but movie studios should take note that Twitter can be a force to be reckoned with.

Add a comment October 26, 2009