The Company Name Change Game

Internet advertising is a hotbed of excitement and activity. From pop-up, contextual advertising, and spam controversies to the inevitable frenzy following positive media spending forecasts, we’re almost never at a loss for industry gossip.

A favorite news flash among interactive media buyers is a company name change. As it involves a ton of excess labor and PR, rebranding initiatives aren’t an everyday occurrence within publisher and media supplier circles. Occasionally, however, a company attempts acceptance under a new — and invariably “improved” — moniker. Do GoTo (now Overture), L90 (part of MaxWorldwide), The Mining Company (About.com), and AOL Time Warner ring any bells?

Media buyers should be skeptical of name-change efforts. Why would a company intentionally go through all the trouble of changing its name, logo, ads, and so on? Buyers have an obligation to their clients to ask this question, as the answer can sometimes affect campaign planning and execution.

Investigate the company’s motive behind such a bold (and potentially dangerous) move. Company name changing is generally fuelled by one of three things:

  • A desire to reposition the company within the marketplace after changing corporate direction

  • A merger with another industry player
  • The need to do some major damage control in the face of unrelenting bad press

Damage control is usually quite obvious. Informed media buyers can identify this as the cause. Many choose to steer clear of the organization for a while. If the company can escape bad press and consumer feedback only by reinventing itself, clients won’t want to associate with it until things cool down.

If the motivation lies in repositioning efforts or corporate mergers, immediately find out about new placement opportunities as well as any discontinued ones. Quite likely, new products and services will be presented in conjunction with the company’s new industry image.

Changes could also be made to rates, campaign management systems, under-delivery policies, and so on. The special treatment and bonus impressions you once enjoyed from a site rep may no longer apply with the new protocol. If you’ve been in contact with the site or property in question, your rep may give you all relevant updates. Otherwise, you must educate yourself about what’s different and new.

Though market repositioning and company mergers aren’t usually cause for concern, be wary of companies that employ the “revolving door of corporate image” approach. A few media companies out there are forever repositioning and rebranding themselves. Whether their motive is shedding past indiscretions or locating their rightful place in the industry, such companies are worrisome. At some point, we must realize such corporations are totally lost in terms of business management. In spite of flashy new logos, ad campaigns, and a seemingly inspirational prospectus, these companies should be avoided at all costs.

As you head into the new year, keep your eyes peeled for relevant industry news. 2004 is likely to bring all the action we’re accustomed to, along with a few corporate name changes as well.

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