This was the wiki page where vendors replied to ICANN’s RFP for PR and advertising assistance in raising awareness about new gTLDs, prior to the 12 January 2012 opening of the application window. It will not be updated but has been left here in the spirit of openness and transparency.
Request for Proposals: New Generic Top-Level Domain (New gTLD) Program Advertising Campaign
Thank you to everyone who submitted a proposal for the new gTLD advertising campaign RFP. We were impressed with the level of detail and thought many of the proposals contained. After an evaluation committee review we have made a selection and are working to complete contract negotiations. It is our intention to enter into negotiations for Mechanica LLC, of Newburyport, MA, to assist ICANN with the new gTLD awareness campaign.
Thanks for your interest in helping us launch the New gTLD Program. The most recently issued RFP can be found below:
05 July 2011: RFP issued
11 July 2011: All inquiries regarding the RFP must be received by firstname.lastname@example.org
13 July 2011: Responses to inquiries posted below
18 July 2011: All proposals due no later than 08:00 PDT
29 July 2011: Selection made. To be posted here
Responses to Inquiries from July RFP
Q: What % of the budget, ultimately, do you feel should be allocated internationally? What % per region?
A: The overall goal of the campaign is global awareness. North America probably has the highest awareness of new gTLDs. Given that, probably a greater percentage of the budget should be allocated internationally. The amount that should be allocated per region is what we expect responding vendors to propose.
Q: Have you marketed to these regions before?
A: Not in the sense you are probably thinking. ICANN was formed in 1998, but as a technical operations/policy-making non-profit, did not form a communications department until September 2010. Since ICANN has never executed a communications or advertising campaign, this campaign will be ground-breaking for us. It’s worth noting that our Global Partnership department and regional liaisons have been our voice in global regions, and although they have not done traditional “marketing,” they have provided us with valuable insight and ICANN presence in their respective regions.
Q: Do you have an existing database on people that we can contact via mail or is this all new acquisition?
A: The campaign would be all “new acquisition.” Since ICANN has only had a marketing department for less than a year, we lack many legacy resources that typical businesses have. We do not have any existing databases, since we don’t have traditional “sales,” “leads,” or “prospects.”
Q: You mention “attendees at outreach events” as a metric, and is in the list of “agency requirements”, but yet event planning is not on the list of agency services requested on p.5, so want to confirm if event planning should be in our plan/response or if we are only including online, print, and social media (and any other ideas we have)?
A: The regional outreach events will be largely coordinated in-house and structured around events and speaking engagements already scheduled in the various regions. We may wish to coordinate our efforts with the agency on advertising for these events but that will be determined on an as needed basis. So, yes, we are mainly looking for proposals that include online, print, and social media ideas.
Q: Do you have any particular dates and locations in mind for these events that we can time our planning recommendation on?
A: We are currently in the process of scheduling/arranging these events. They will largely pick up in September and run through the end of the year.
Q: If the budget begins as of August, what is their target launch date? We discussed mid-January -mid-April, but I’d like to confirm.
A: To understand the timing of all this, it might be helpful to think in phases. Between now and 12 January 2012, is the period dedicated to raising awareness that the new gTLD opportunity exists. During this phase we target organizations that could potentially apply to run their own gTLD. Once we begin accepting applications for new gTLDs on January 12, 2012, we continue accepting applications until 12 April 2012, a phase we call the “application window.” During this phase, because of the complexity of the application process it is probably too late for an institution just becoming aware of new gTLDs to pull together a business plan and apply. Therefore, the messaging will shift gradually away from potential applicants, and begin addressing end users. From 12 April 2012 onward for roughly nine months, all the applications will be in evaluation. In early 2013, the first new TLDs will become live on the Internet. Leading up to January 2013, our messaging will target end users almost solely.
The budget in the RFP begins in August and is for advertising between August 2011 and 12 January 2012, when the application window opens. Your proposed messaging in response to this RFP should address potential applicants.
Q: Are there any limitations as to what we can submit – it says Word Doc, but can we submit work on a DVD as well as actual samples or include a link in the Word Doc to view our work digitally? Want to be sensitive to any rules/parameters they have regarding how the response can be submitted and in what format.
A: We would like for the main proposal to be in either a Word or PDF format. Beyond that, yes, agencies may also submit other digital formats in addition to their main proposal to showcase any work, whether past or speculative.
Q: Are you currently working with an ad agency or marcom firm?
A: No, we are not currently working with an ad agency or marketing firm. We do have a contract with a PR firm.
Q: What do they think is the current level of awareness?
A: We have no empirical data on this. But if you turn to anyone around you and say, “Hey, what do you think of new gTLDs?” you will probably get a blank stare in return.
Q: Do you have a set of brand guidelines or previous campaign assets to share?
A: We will have a kick-off meeting with the selected agency to share all materials currently created and guidelines for ICANN logo usage.
Q: What is your current social media strategy and presence?
A: Minimal. ICANN’s marketing communications team did not exist until late 2010, and as a new department is scrambling to lay foundational guidelines for social media. Currently we have a dozen ICANN Twitter accounts, with @ICANN being the main one. We also have a new gTLD Twitter account, @newgtldsicann. There are ICANN-related Facebook accounts and Linked-In groups. Those that we originated are not systematically exploited.
Q: How does the new gTLD help promote competition, ensure security and stability
A: New gTLDs will create competition at the registry level, and removes the assumption that most “important” domains should end in .com. The new gTLD program has been created to include specific safeguards to help make the Internet more secure. For example, every application must show a plan to implement DNSSEC into their applied-for string. The new operators must also pass stringent background checks, and will be dropped from consideration if convictions have occurred for a range of crimes. And root zone scaling studies have shown that adding additional new gTLDs will not disrupt the stability of the DNS.
Q: In addition to creating advertising and other buzz-building communications, is there an opportunity for the campaign and strategy to influence look, tone, feel and functionality of a gTLD site or microsite?
A: The New gTLD site is in the process of being updated. The new site will look drastically different from the current site. That site is due to go live 1 September 2011.
Q: You mention in the RFP "Please note that the agency need not prioritize “earned media” efforts, which are coordinated by ICANN internally." However given this is awareness and buzz-building campaign around innovative and progressive uses of the internet, can we assume we will collaborate with these "earned media" efforts?
A: Yes, everything we do in regards to this campaign will need to be a collaborative effort. ICANN had 2,000 “earned media” articles appear worldwide the first week new gTLDs were approved. The selected agency will work with our in-house Global Press Relations department.
Q: Budget - on the wiki response from April you indicate "$500K all-in budget." Since the current RFP indicates $750K budget, can we assume that a) the overall budget has been increased, and b) should still be considered all-in? Also, are marketing infrastructure investments such as CRM or social media monitoring tools inside or outside of the $750K budget?
A: a.) Yes. The budget has been increased from $500k to $750k. b.) Yes. Still all-in. and CRM and/or social media monitoring tools are also inside the budget.
Q: Do you require (or strongly prefer) that competing agencies provide all services mentioned in-house, or can carefully managed "general contractor/sub-contractor" relationships be considered?
A: We recognize there are different ways of executing an effective campaign. What we are interested in is strong creative and being able get the most bang for our limited budget. If an agency has solid relationships with general/sub-contractors and can make it work seamlessly, then we will consider it. Consistency of quality will be key.
Q: Will there be an ongoing role for an "AOR" agency partner, or do you see this as a project assignment for a limited time period?
A: This project has a defined, limited time period. However, we will be conducting additional application rounds for new gTLDs, and new gTLDs are likely to have ongoing advertising needs.
Q: May we send the requested sample work as a PDF, rather than Word format?
A: Yes, a PDF is fine.
Q: BENCHMARKS -- Do you or will you have data on current (benchmark) level of awareness/understanding of gTLDs after the recent (July) news release and coverage?
A: We have pulled analytics from our media monitoring software that we will share.
Q: TAGLINE - We've seen the line "Get Ready for the Next Big .Thing?" used in some communications. Can we assume this is up for evaluation?
A: Yes. The slogan was generated in-house and can be embraced or abandoned.
Q: TARGETS - Existing registrars are not specifically mentioned as a segment/target. Because new applicants will become registrars themselves, what is the role of existing registrars?
A: Not all new gTLD operators will become registrars as well. Some may choose to develop relationships with existing registrars. More to the point, there is no need to raise awareness of new gTLDs among registrars; the whole point of the campaign is to reach audiences outside ICANN’s normal sphere.
Q: REVENUE MODEL - How was the price of $185,000 determined? Can we assume that a reasonable year one goal is at least the 200-300 annual gTLD registrations referred to in the Applicant Handbook?
A: The $185,000 was created on a cost recovery model and for ICANN, is revenue neutral. The $185k fee is broken down into thirds: cost recovery, contingency/risk, and to cover all the 3rd parties required to evaluate the applications.
As for a reasonable one-year goal, we really don’t know. There are some websites out there that list strings entities have publically said they may apply for (for example: http://www.newtlds.tv/newtlds/). But we have no way of knowing how many of those potential applicants will actually apply or how many who apply will pass. Note that the goal of the campaign is not quantity of applications, but quality of applications; and that no one comes forward on 12 January, 2012, and says “Our organization really wanted in on this but we never heard of it until now.”
Q: PHASES - We understand that 1st-phase applications for new gTLDs will be accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012. Are there any plans for timing of the additional waves?
A: Additional rounds will be announced at a later date. A subsequent round wouldn’t open until at least a year after the first round closes.
Q: TM/IP PROCEDURES - We know that brands/companies can object (during a defined period) if anyone has applied for a competing new gTLD. Will ICANN be providing an alert system, or are brands required to monitor usage?
A: All applied-for strings will be publicly posted on our website. Brands should monitor usage, as there is no reasonable way to know whom to notify for every character string that might be proposed.
Q: Why wasn't a partner picked in April when it appears that this RFP was originally issued?
A: We didn’t get the response we were looking for and have since modified the scope and budget.
Q: Who are the opportunity/project decision-makers at ICANN?
Q: Who are the day-to-day project decision-makers and what is the typical approval process?
A: Responding vendors do not need these names. The selected vendor will be fully briefed.
Q: How have you notified potential partners to participate in this RFP?
A: We made a public announcement on our website. We requested the RFP be posted to the RFP Exchange on the PRSA site and we have sent the RFP to other agencies that we knew were interested in submitting a proposal. In the past, RFPs on our Announcement page have been picked up by RFP aggregation services and distributed widely.
Q: How many agencies do you anticipate will submit?
A: Your guess is as good as ours, since we have no institutional precedent.
Q: What marketing has ICANN produced in the past? What has worked well and what hasn't?
A: As mentioned above, up until 2010 ICANN has not even had a communications department. ICANN has never really “marketed” itself. Being a non-profit working behind the scenes we have not had the need.
Q: Based on the $750k budget provided, what is your anticipated percent breakdown in costs (Services/Production vs. Media)?
A: This is something we would like the agency to suggest to us.
Q: What type of audience segmentation or identification research/metrics does ICANN currently have on the two target groups: potential applicants and need to know audiences? Will additional research be required?
A: We have no conducted formal research.
Q: Are you looking for partner exclusivity or can the partner also work with and pursue relationships with other gTLDs and ccTLDs?
A: ICANN is a neutral steward of the new gTLD application process. We must avoid all appearances of conflict of interest. Depending on what relationships an agency has with potential applicants or other gTLDs and ccTLDs, serving both ICANN and a beneficiary of the process could look bad. This aspect will receive strong consideration in our evaluation of respones.
Q: Can you please clarify the difference between professional and non-professional service hours as listed in the RFP?
A: For marketing purposes, professional services are done by people who are trained, experienced and/or certified in their field, like business development consultants, copywriters, web designers or translators. They are generally salaried.
Non professional services are more generalists, like administrative assistants and project managers, or unskilled and hourly wage workers like mail room employees.
Q: Within the regions noted in the RFP, are there specific countries that you would like to target?
A: UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, France, Spain, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, UAE, China, India, Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, US
Q: Are there specific metrics or benchmarks we need to be aware of? The evaluation metrics section indicates what they will be monitoring but not expectations. (For example “quality of applications received” what does that mean? Company size? Company type?)
A: Quality of applications received means that “qualified” applicants are applying. A qualified applicant would understand the requirements and what is involved in running a registry, they would have a solid business plan, and be able to financially, technically and operationally sustain a registry business. The goal is that those who successfully get new gTLDs will still be in business one and five years from when they begin.
Q: Has ICANN run any advertising campaigns previously? If so, can we see the creative and what were the results?
A: No. This is ICANN’s first-ever advertising campaign.
Q: Since this is an awareness campaign, does ICANN have any benchmarks on the current awareness level of the new gTLDs? Do we assume it is zero since it is new? Or has there already been buzz around this initiative?
A: There has been media buzz around this initiative. Once the Board of Directors approved the program 20 June in Singapore, we got quite a lot of coverage in the media in the US and internationally.
Q: Is there a long decision process required by companies before submitting an application that would influence the need for multiple exposures to the message or even campaign messages or vehicles that takes someone through the consideration process from awareness, to interest, to application?
A: Yes. For many, it would involve completely rewriting their marketing strategy.
Q: Is the media driving to the homepage? To the video? To an application form? Does this vary by audience or by country?
A: The call to action in most cases will be to visit the new gTLD website to get more information.
Q: With respect to the target regions "Geography", ICANN is casting a wide net (basically the entire world). In order to maximize the budget, is ICANN in a position to prioritize the geographic regions including identifying key markets in each area (e.g. specific cities such as New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, etc.)?
A: Countries were listed above. Possible cities include: London, Berlin, Munich, Prague, Moscow, Paris, Barcelona, Dakar, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Toronto, Vancouver, NY, Washington, LA, San Jose, Chicago
Responses to Inquiries from April RFP (please note that no agency was selected from the April RFP)
Q: What business assumptions are you making about your markets and audiences and where will the majority of your signups come from?
A: Our audiences are broken into two different categories - those who could potentially take advantage of the program opportunity such as the business community, corporate marketers, investors, local municipalities, non-profits, NGOs, etc…and then those who need to know about the program such as trademark holders, IP attorneys, advertising agencies, etc... This program will ultimately affect anyone who currently uses the Internet and hopefully provide a way for the next billion users to come online.
Q: Is the entire budget $500K? Or, is $500K the budget for media placement only? If $500K is total budget and assumes inclusion of media placement and production, based on your stated goals and objectives for a global campaign which includes TV, display and billboard advertising in any capacity, $500K represents a very limited budget for any vendor/partner to work with and be able to fairly balance with other integrated marketing functions and deliverables on the basis of out of pocket costs alone. Please confirm, thanks.
A: $500K is the entire budget. We realize its limitations, and look to you for creative solutions on how to raise awareness using such a shoestring amount.
Q: Should we assume that audiences will be "directed" to the ICANN web site (www.icann.org) as part of all call-to-action initiatives, or does the RFP and plan of action allow for a newly created web presence for the campaign? If the assumption is necessity to use ICANN.org, there are numerous technical/architecture questions we'd have in order to define approaches and respond to specific questions in the RFP regarding tracking, metrics and measurement, but also raise questions regarding digital implementation which in some cases would inherently influence results. For example, does ICANN currently utilize things like Google Analytics, DART, or already subscribe to social monitoring services (e.g., Radian)? What content management system is used? Does ICANN already have a subscription for an online survey platform?
A: The campaign should drive audiences to http://icann.org/newgtlds as the website for further information. This micro-site is currently being redesigned to accommodate the needs of anticipated applicants.
Q: Although the evaluation metrics in the RFP are helpful, has ICANN defined any more "rigorous" assumptions or key performance indicators (KPI) that would be utilized to ultimately satisfy its objectives and evaluate its return on investment for the campaign? For example, # of inquiries or applications from any one of the target segmentations in particular or in total for that matter?
A: We have not set the kind of goals you are inquiring about; for example, there are no KPIs hoping for a specific number of applications from a specific sector. Note that the goal of the entire campaign is not to get everyone to apply for a TLD, as that is inappropriate for many entities. Rather, our goal is to make potential applicants aware of the opportunity and evaluating it to see whether it is appropriate for their organization.
Q: As part of evaluating web site statistics and specifically with respect "demographics," could you please provide a deeper description of demographics you want or at minimum need to capture? The primary reason and concern for this question/issue is that as part of measuring inquiries and/or applicants from the "applicant" segmentation, as you can likely appreciate, while many applicants have publicly announced their intentions to apply, there are numerous applicants (some of which we are working with) who are very "guarded" about their specific plans. We, ourselves, do not reveal the specific string we're applying for in selected types of dialogues or forums. I've also seen a lot of concerns and banter in the media and on blogs about the "early warning" GAC revisions in the guidebook which validates these concerns and issues, which we believe could have a material influence on the level of transparency contemplated within things like web site forms and data elements when put into practice in the campaign.
A: The main demographic I’d like to capture is the geographic location – where in the world are these people located who are clicking on our online advertising – needing to communicate this program globally, I’d like to use this as one indication of the global reach.
Please note that ICANN will always be aware when an organization applies for a TLD string. They can keep their plans secret from competitors initially, but they cannot keep their applications secret from us. Every string that passes initial evaluation will end up posted publicly, because part of the process is to enable other parties to object to your string if they feel it violates their intellectual property.
Q: If in fact the total budget is indeed $500K, on the surface, it would seem that that various types of trade and business media, as well as social media would play a very key role in accomplishing your objectives and provide for the most influential and cost-efficient vehicles to ensure "buzz." We noticed that ICANN currently engages Edelman Public Relations…should vendor/partner applicants assume that for PR functions, there will need to be coordination through Edelman, or would the selected vendor/partner retain primary responsibility for all media relations?
A: Currently, we use an Edelman rep to help us with routine PR in Europe; and we have no formal interaction with Edelman in the Americas. In short, it is not necessary to assume Edelman would coordinate all media relations.
Q: Is it possible that ICANN will award components of the engagement to multiple vendor/partners, or is the assumption that one vendor will be awarded the entire campaign and deliverables?
A: While ICANN has not made a firm decision on this issue, our bias would be to have one entity coordinate. Rolling out a message world-wide is complicated enough without also adding multiple alliances on the back end.