PlaceWare Campaign Opens with Blast-From-the-Past Stunt

Webconferencing play PlaceWare is aiming to make a name for itself in online meetings — starting with a stunt worthy of the heady days of dot-com mania.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company started its new awareness campaign by having its chief executive conduct a live press conference from a billboard in New York’s Times Square, using the firm’s technology.

Faced with revenue worries and a bearish capital markets, the Internet world has generally abandoned such elaborate marketing stunts. But rather than contracting like many other sectors, the Webconferencing market is opening up — due to companies’ increasing efforts to trim expenses, and post-Sept. 11 fears about traveling.

Already, Placeware said its client base has grown 50 percent during the past 12 months, and boasts a client roster that includes BASF, Microsoft, Deloitte Consulting and KPMG.

Now, the company is aiming to further boost its prominence by leveraging those trends in a new, month-long campaign, dubbed “Where.” Designed by the San Francisco office of Havas’ Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, the multi-million dollar effort revolves around educating business spending decision-makers and IT personnel about the benefits of Web-based conferencing.

To make the point, a string of three, 15-second TV spots show hapless businesspeople suffering as a result of some of the troubles with “real-world” meetings. In one execution, a man scrambles frantically through traffic to make a meeting — only to run smack into the side of a bus. In another, a woman dozes off in the middle of a conference call, her head landing on the speakerphone and cutting off the call in mid-sentence.

A third spot shows an executive enduring an air flight next to a baby, who vomits on both him and his business papers. Voice-over reads, “Where can you present, and not have to travel? PlaceWare.”

In addition to the TV spots, which will air on cable business networks, the company plans to continue using its Times Square real estate by having clients conduct conferences from the billboard later during the month. (Which clients actually will brave the winds above Times Square remains in question, though PlaceWare said it expects to have had at least a few participate by the end of the campaign.)

Copy on the billboard reads: “Where you can present to thousands, right from your desk chair. PlaceWare.” All of the ads use the tagline, “PlaceWare. Log in. And Meet.”

The company also plans print, out-of-home taxi tops, and online ads on the same theme. Guerilla marketing teams also will distribute branded knickknacks like coffee cups in major cities.

“People don’t know what Webconferencing is,” said George Garrick, the firm’s CEO. “They think it’s when you get a little video window on your screen. But videoconferencing has been a big disappointment — it never really took off, it’s expensive to implement, and it doesn’t add much. What people are really doing is sharing data.”

The effort not only seeks to speak about the pluses of meeting online, but to a lesser extent aims to position PlaceWare favorably against larger, established rivals like WebEx. Unlike some competitors, PlaceWare’s chief offering is hosted from its datacenter — rather than on a peer-to-peer basis. The ASP difference, it says, makes things easier for meeting leaders to set up, and for company’s IT staff to implement.

As a result, ease of use will play a prominent role in the campaign as it unfolds, while IT folks will represent a second group targeted by the ads.

“This campaign is meant to grab the attention of our target audience in a positive and humorous way,” said Janice Kapner, director of branding and demand generation for PlaceWare. “We are talking and selling to a sophisticated, hip and quality-driven group, and we’re reaching them with a message that’s witty and substantive without being silly or lacking business context. We expect the campaign to both raise the awareness level of PlaceWare and generate leads for our sales organization.”

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