Elitist, pseudo-intellectual snob that I am, I rarely watch commercial television. But I make an exception when the The X Factor is on.
I’m not sure I’d even describe the show as a guilty pleasure. It’s just consistently great television.
I’m not alone. According to BARB, which tracks viewing figures in the UK, The X Factor is Britain’s top-rated show, with about 11 million viewers each Saturday night.
It is estimated that a 30-second spot in the latest series costs advertisers £154,000 ($250,000), which will likely increase dramatically as buzz builds toward the December finals.
If a company is willing to spend $250,000 on a single ad spot, I got to wondering how these advertisers use domain names. The price of a new “.brand” gTLD is in the same ball park, after all.
So rather than zoning out during The X Factor‘s commercial breaks last night, I took notes.
Of the 15 brands advertised during the show, five did not promote their online presence at all. Ads for products such as breakfast cereal showed no URLs, search terms or Facebook profiles.
Another three displayed their domains on-screen as footnotes, but with no explicit call to action.
Two advertisers, amazon.co.uk and weightwatchers.co.uk, explicitly encouraged the viewer, on-screen and in the voice-over, to visit their sites.
Barclays was the only advertiser that asked viewers to find it using a search engine. Its call to action was “search Barclays offset mortgage”, with no accompanying URL.
There were also a couple of ads that used call-to-action .co.uk domains.
Mars used bagamillionmovies.co.uk to direct viewers to an M&Ms movie competition, while Microsoft (windows.co.uk/newpc) was the only advertiser to use a directory in addition to its domain.
But the two commercials that interested me the most were those that used alternative or “new” TLDs – the ones that are usually afterthoughts when you’ve already put a .com into your cart.
Mars used getsomenuts.tv to advertise Snickers, and the healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson asked viewers to visit sleepchallenge.info.
That’s right. J&J seems to be spending six-figure sums advertising a .info domain during Britain’s most-watched TV show every Saturday night.
This is noteworthy for, among other reasons, the fact that J&J has a seat on the board of directors of the Association of National Advertisers.
The ANA is of course currently leading the campaign against ICANN’s new gTLD program.
ANA general counsel Doug Wood rubbished .info, albeit only by association, in a video interview with WebProNews on Friday, stating:
The idea of [ICANN’s new gTLD program] being successful and delivering the competition or the innovation that they’re speculating on is clearly questionable to a great degree, based purely on the success or lack of success of the last group they introduced – .biz, .travel, .jobs, etc – none of which has as done anything significant vis-a-vis competition or innovation
I would suggest that the existence of sleepchallenge.info shows how dubious these claims are.
First, sleepchallenge.info redirects to a rather longer URL at johnsonsbaby.co.uk. This indicates that it was registered purely to act as a memorable and measurable call-to-action domain.
The fact that J&J used the .info, rather than sleepchallenge.co.uk, which it also owns, suggests that the company appreciates the additional meaning in the word “info”.
(Mere added semantic value would make a poor definition of innovation, but until now it’s been one of the few things that new gTLD registries have been able to offer.)
The domain sleepchallenge.info was a hand registration in May 2010, according to Whois records, costing J&J just $35 from Network Solutions.
The .com equivalent has been registered since 2007 and would have cost substantially more to acquire from its current registrant, if indeed it was for sale, which it may not be.
Because ICANN introduced competition into the gTLD market 11 years ago, J&J was able to obtain a meaningful domain for a massive ad campaign at a low price.
Watching The X Factor has taught me that Johnson & Johnson is an ANA board member that has already directly benefited from new gTLDs.
I guess commercial TV can be educational after all.