The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) convened its 101st "Masters of Marketing" Annual Conference on Thursday down in sunny Phoenix, where it was expected to be in the 90s on Friday -- but that's mild for Arizona. Things were a lot hotter indoors, as ANA CEO Bob Liodice kicked off the conference -- the largest ever at 1,700 registrants, with a keynote taking aim at the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)'s massive domain name strategy.
In his speech, "Mastering Brands and Driving Results," Liodice brought up the highly contentious June vote by ICANN to expand domain name extensions. He also ran down the particulars of the ANA Marketers’ Constitution.
Per the ICANN proposition, Liodice exhorted attendees to sign the "First Amendment to the Constitution," a statement avowing the industry’s united opposition to the top-level domain expansion program.
ICANN's proposal, to which its board members gave the nod by vote during its June meeting in Singapore, will allow essentially limitless URL suffixes starting next year, adding everything from industry and languages, to geography and ethnicity to the current two dozen or so domains that include .com, .org, .edu and .net, and more recent ones like .jobs, .info and .biz.
Liodice and ICANN got into a tete à tete in early August after the former sent a long letter to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president and CEO, arguing that while ICANN's cadre may have voted for it, there wasn't broad support among other stakeholders and experts and that ICANN was wrong about the move benefiting business. Beckstrom basically responded that the ANA was wrong because ICANN got lots of feedback.
Liodice reiterated his position at the conference, saying the move will cost business billions, while benefiting ICANN (because of domain name fees) and that it was basically a coup as ICANN ignored the ANA's take.
Said Liodice: “The entire brand community must urge ICANN to reconsider and suspend this program before it causes irreparable damage.” He noted that the ANA's position is shared by the 4As, AAF, IAB, DMA, PMA and WFA, as well as the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the American Society of Association Executives, the Intellectual Property Owners Association, the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Insurance Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Just a day before the ANA conference kicked off, Dan Jaffe, the organization’s EVP, released an executive summary on the issue, which included a petition to Rebecca M. Blank, acting secretary of Commerce and under secretary for economic affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce. The memorandum dissected the ICANN proposal, pointing out some of the more salient flaws vis à vis costs to businesses to maintain domains and keep the lid on a Pandora’s boxful of malfeasance.
"Marketers will be required to monitor and police the new gTLDs (generic top-level domains) just as they do current TLDs, to guard against cybersquatting, typosquatting and other threats to their brands by third-party registrations at the SLD (second-level domains)," says the memorandum. The memo also points out that defending against cybersquatting and typosquatting will force marketers to "buy and park potentially thousands of SLDs in the new gTLDs to protect their brand equity just as they do today in the existing gTLDs."
Other issues the ANA says will be geometrically worsened by an expanded domain-name landscape: consumer confusion and business disruption, increased click through fraud, identity theft, charity fraud, spam E-mail, spyware/malware, online predators, product counterfeiting, funding of terrorist activity via counterfeiting, and foreign-registered Web sites and forum shopping, wherein fraud perps would host unofficial domains in locations outside of the United States. "In ICANN’s own promotional road shows for this program, panelists have recognized the value of jurisdiction shopping to avoid the long arm jurisdiction of U.S. law and the U.S. website seizure process," says the memo.
During his Thursday keynote, Liodice also talked about growth and marketing impact of online behavioral advertising, and the Digital Advertising Alliance's self-regulatory program to give consumers choice regarding ad targeting based on their personal interests.