When the American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, National Retail Federation and World Federation of Advertisers line up against something, it's a safe bet that something isn't in the best interest of marketers.
That certainly appears to be the case with the pending expansion of Internet top-level domain names by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
ICANN's plan, set to go into effect Jan. 12, would enable applicants to buy both branded and generic words as top-level domain names, such as .hp or .bank. This would mean marketers would have to acquire their brand names—at a cost of $185,000 each—or risk cyber squatters taking them; that fee doesn't include the cost of monitoring and defending those domain names. ANA, which has been leading the fight against ICANN's proposal, estimated the 10-year cost at $2 million per brand.
“The issue that we have with the potential explosion of top-level domains starts with the lack of tangible benefit for any marketer,” ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice said during an interview at the group's Masters of Marketing annual conference last month in Phoenix. “There is no benefit. There is no reason for this particular program. Beyond that, the cost is huge. The potential cyber-squatting issues are going to become more pronounced, and there is the potential for consumer harm.”
Liodice urged marketers to get directly involved in the fight. “We have one and only one pathway to stop this, and that is through the United States Department of Commerce. We need for you to petition the Department of Commerce to withdraw and oppose this ICANN program. We need it to be said loudly. We need it to be said publicly. We need to convince ICANN that this is not in the interest of anyone in our ecosystem.”
I asked Liodice how optimistic he was about stopping ICANN. “If you asked me that same question three months ago I would have said "not optimistic,' ” he replied. “The fact is, we have an increasing amount of momentum now that more and more companies and organizations here and around the world are climbing on the bandwagon.”
At a minimum, Liodice said, the united parties need to convince Commerce officials to delay ICANN's plan, step back and ensure it's making the right decision.
“Ideally, we'd like to convince them to withdraw it completely because of the lack of benefit and the incredible amount of time and cost that it's going to impose upon the industry,” he said. “With that being said, we have to move absolutely quickly. We have two months to do it. The momentum is building on our side at incredible rates.”
John Obrecht is editor of BtoB and Media Business. He can be reached at [email protected]