Fantasy vs. Reality: Rebutting ANA on gTLDs

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ADOTAS – Gary Elliot, chairman of the Association of National Advertisers and vice president of global marketing at Hewlett-Packard, wrote a column in Advertising Age titled “ICANN’s Promises Aren’t Simply Speculation, They’re Outright Fantasy” His arguments opposing ICANN gTLDs are similar to the other heads of various advertising associations around the world.

While the main powerbrokers of the global advertising sector are mum, their association heads are using the same circulated message of cyber-squatting fears without any solid proof. Here is my analysis and an open challenge to the trade.

Elliot writes, “By every calculation I’ve seen, including estimates by ICANN’s own experts, it will cost companies like mine hundreds of thousands of dollars to police their trademarks regardless of whether they decide to participate and buy a branded domain or register on other new generic domains, e.g., .computer. Those costs, when weighted against the purported benefits promised, simply don’t add up.”

Let’s assume one spends $500,000 plus months in legal formalities to obtain “dot computer” with intentions to go after Hewlett-Packard.computer or hp.computer as some kind of power play in the market place. To begin, what’s the real value of “dot computer” anyway? Does this generic word really warrant all this effort?

Here the glaring problem of nomenclature is staring straight at us: not each and every generic term is worth the gTLD struggle. At what stage do those unfounded claims of billions of dollars in legal and protective expenses come into play?

Irrespective, this so-called big threat already exists in simple domain names today. If this term is so hot a property why are domain names in various combinations like www.hpcomputer.com already readily available today for few dollars?

Furthermore, in either case, HP can use trademark protection measures to remedy such a situation. The company may, however, boldly reject the first-come-no-questions-asked domain name policy. He may consider acknowledging that this clause alone is solely responsible for over 10,000 “Uniform Domain-Name Dispute- Resolution Programs” where disputing parties submits thousands of dollars in costs to lawyers.

But can he demand that ICANN cancel the entire domain name system and halt the Internet? The current domain name system, despite its problems, has provided amazing billing opportunities in trademark conflicts and digital branding to ad agencies.

The new gTLD approach is a logical and rightful nomenclature evolution towards global cyber-branding expansion. This subject of corporate nomenclature at this level of global naming complexity is neither taught at world’s leading universities nor discussed in top MBA courses.

Elliot further adds, “One only needs to look at the ‘success’ of the last string of new TLDs ICANN introduced in the past 10 years — .biz, .info, .travel, .jobs, .tel, .name, .coop, .museum, and .mobi — to see that ICANN’s promises are not just speculation but are, in fact, fantasy.”

What amount of earth-shattering cyber-squatting did these poor performance gTLDs cause? Would it have turned out differently if they were mega successes? What specific name would pose a threat to Hewlett-Packard? Who really wants “HewlettPackard.travel”?  Who wants to be the cyber-squatter owner of www.HP.name? What is the real value of this name chase?

The real truth on the other side is that these poor performance gTLDs from the start were the product of “extremely distressed and restricted releases.” A slow, painful and extremely expensive delivery process while registrars dreamed of dotcom type runaways.

The name selection understanding between “.pro” over “.law” was never an option, so someone resorted to park all professionals under a single roof of “.pro.” Real-life global naming doesn’t work like this.

Other gTLD name choices were simply accidental; .name or .me were supposed to say “what name” or “what me” to achieve what? The applicants have learned an important lesson: the more open the name, the poorer the results. This new game is more sophisticated, demanding a sharper understanding of global naming.

Elliot’s trepidations do not measure up to the limited elasticity concerning the legendary name of his own company Hewlett-Packard, which as a dot brand may not carry the sex appeal for being too long and in two parts. The abbreviated version of dot HP would not be allowed under ICANN naming rules. Two letters are restricted to country TLDs, like “in” for India and “jp” for Japan.

Why HP would need “.hp” in the first place? They already own www.hp.com. Unless “.hp” was a special “customer-touch-point” sub-domain system to reach out to thousands of distributors worldwide under a master gTLD plan. In any event, the naming issues will have to address all these technicalities.

With or without new gTLDs, the ongoing fears of some other smarter name or dot brand circling Hewlett Packard’s space is always a possibility. This is a common challenge for every major marketer around the world. Therefore, how you play the nomenclature game and enforce a name identity in the global mindshare is the real challenge.

When all the possibilities of gTLDs are measured up in creating dot brand, generic brands and destination brands, the wide range of opportunities point more towards intricate and colorful naming. Cyber-squatting only appears no bigger a threat than what already exists. This is the reality.

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