What Dinosaurs Eat for Lunch

You know what happened to the dinosaurs, right? They ate themselves out of existence goes one scenario, turned into parrots goes another. My favorite is the giant meteor that raised a cloud of dust so deep and dark that everything died, except viruses and some sharks and a couple of roaches. Maybe there’s a message here.

What brings this to mind is the implied fate of these endlessly consolidating megacorporations, staggering under their own weight while all around them, small Net-savvy competitors go zipping through the tall grass to eat their lunch… or maybe just get eaten.

Case in point: One Buzzie nomination described the phenomenal job Brodeur Worldwide did for U S WEST. U S WEST is a broadband and communications service provider, a major wireless player with nearly “2 million miles of deployed fiber in the U.S.” This is a big PR program for a big company. The URL is http://www.uswest.com. But don’t go there. Not just yet.

While Brodeur Worldwide isn’t quite a Thunder Lizard, measured against other PR agencies it’s not your basic Iguana, either. Boasting 700 employees in 40 offices in more than 30 countries, Brodeur is part of Diversified Agency Services (DAS) a group of 75 companies with 500 offices in more than 60 countries. By itself that’s just a bunch of numbers, but the PR group within DAS includes names you do know, including three of the top worldwide firms Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, and Porter Novelli International.

And it doesn’t even stop there. As if Brodeur and its cohort of monster PR agencies within DAS weren’t enough to scare off the competition, there’s more. DAS itself is part of the Omnicom Group. Are you with me here? That’s THE Omnicom “the world’s biggest marketing communications group” whose portfolio includes three of the top 10 global ad agency networks” including household names BBDO Worldwide and DDB.

What Brodeur did was research eight key U S WEST markets and come up with the idea of an online press room and a highly tailored interactive web site to reach each target market with top editorial content. The Brodeur/U S WEST team says it built the site launched September 1, 1999 in 60 days at a budget of $80,000. The web team got $44,000, and the PR team got $36,000 “for the complete creation and launch of the web site and online press room.”

The U S WEST site offers visitors targeted “e-zines dedicated to specific decision makers in each of… eight key customer groups.” These e-zines, were produced in part through content partnerships with providers like Bank Systems+Technology and Internet.com.

The key to the partnership/content deal was Brodeur’s traffic-jamming Tyrannosaurus Rex. When the Brodeur/U S WEST team had to prove to content providers that partnering made sense, all they had to do was whip out the U S WEST web site traffic stats confirming the publicity value of the relationship. Hell, we’ve all seen “King Kong” and know what a giant gorilla can do to traffic.

This site is so good that just days after Brodeur submitted this entry to the Buzzie Awards, on June 26, 2000, the agency was able to announce it had won the Platinum PR Award from PR NEWS in the “1999 Interactive Public Relations” category. A standout entry, said PR NEWS publisher Diane Schwartz, a “dynamic, well-rounded interactive site that portrays creativity, depth, and a distinct focus…” We’ll have to take her word for it because here’s where the creaking ground under those giant dinosaur feet starts to shake and crumble.

Remember http://www.uswest.com/? Don’t bother clicking. There’s nothing there but a pointer to Qwest Communications International, the surviving megacorp. In the past week, U S WEST, with more than $13 billion in annual revenues, concluded its merger with Qwest creating “a communications powerhouse with a market cap of more than $70 billion… employing 64,000 people worldwide.”

And our platinum award-winning site? It appears to have gotten swallowed up in the process. Within hours of the PR NEWS announcement there was no more stand-alone U S WEST, no more working site. And as for the online U S WEST press room? All we could find is a note on the web site door: Coming soon.

So here we’re talking about a spectacular online Buzzie contender from a giant agency that’s part of monster group within mammoth Omnicom with some of the world’s biggest advertising and PR agencies in the family… and its entry is compromised due to lack of existence.

Was it a successful program? Dunno. Measurable results were not provided. And the actual web page, like the huge organization that funded it, vanished from the U S WEST site leaving neither footprint nor fossil. But we’re still digging. It’s almost like a giant wrecking ball had crashed into the whole project… or maybe a meteor.

Flash! Late word from Brodeur: You may not be able to get to this web site via uswest.com or qwest.com, but you can still see how good it was if you know the secret code: Try: http://www.uswest.com/largebusiness/industries/index.html.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.