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The Internet: Get In On It

By Gadi Dechter | Posted 5/31/2006

Baltimore’s tourism agency has allocated about $1.2 million in public money for focus groups, a logo, a slogan, and a one-month multimedia advertising campaign, but none of the marketing experts hired to conceive and execute the city’s new tourism brand bothered to shell out the $6 required to secure a seemingly obvious web-site address. That’s how much Brian Morrison of Baltimore paid to register the internet domain on May 21, a day after the Sun’s Doug Donovan broke the news that Charm City’s new tourism tag line would be “Baltimore: Get in on it.” was also registered May 21, though the identity of that registrant was not immediately ascertainable.

“Quite frankly, I’m stunned that any effort to acquire or invest in a slogan would not have included securing all the domain names,” Morrison says about the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association’s (BACVA) neglect to protect their slogan online.

“It’s definitely unusual,” says Todd Harvey, co-founder of Mission Media, a Baltimore agency that specializes in interactive advertising. “Whenever we come up with any [names or tag lines], or a client has any ideas, we buy every variation of it that’s available, including misspellings. Domain names are cheap enough.”

Popular domain-name registration provider currently charges customers $9 to register a new name.

The dot-com variant of the new Baltimore tag line was already taken by the time branding firm Landor and BACVA’s board settled on the slogan in March. Because was not available, the local ad agency hired to execute the new branding campaign selected as the brand’s official web site, according to an executive at Carton Donofrio Partners, BACVA’s new ad agency of record.

BACVA’s ads will attempt to direct tourist traffic mainly to, the tourism booster’s online home. But its aggressive marketing of the phrase “Get in on it” means some prospective tourists will inevitably gravitate toward internet addresses featuring those words, says Mission Media’s Harvey, which is why advertisers often try to secure as many variations of a trademark as possible. was last registered in January by Alvaro Tovar of Rosemead, Calif., two months before “Get in on it” was finalized as Baltimore’s new tourism slogan. In an e-mail, Tovar told Media Circus that he was approached in “the recent past” with interest in the domain and that he’s still willing to entertain offers. So is’s new owner, Morrison, who doesn’t fit the stereotype of the typical “cybersquatter,” someone who registers domain names and then “parks” them in hopes of reselling at a profit. Morrison is the founder and CEO of the Believe in Tomorrow National Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit that provides housing and hospitality services to critically ill children and their families. He says he dabbles in domains as a “hobby,” and is currently the registrant of more than 40 other internet addresses, most of them references to E85 ethanol, a blend of ethanol and gasoline that has received extensive recent media coverage as a potential alternative fuel.

“I certainly would be open to any discussion” with BACVA, Morrison says. “It might not even involve any money.”

At last week’s formal launch of the branding campaign, BACVA spokeswoman Nancy Hinds downplayed the importance of owning URLs containing the words “Get in on it,” saying will be just as effective.

Everybody Loves Writing

“A publisher who writes is like a cow in a milk bar,” wrote novelist and journalist Arthur Koestler.

Koestler’s oft-repeated analogy is confusing, but also intriguing, much like the enigmatic observations offered by Examiner publisher Michael Phelps in a column intermittently published in the free daily’s opinion pages. The new newspaper publisher meanders through both topical subjects—rising gas prices, capital punishment—and sometimes awkward personal ruminations about life in Baltimore, such as the pride he took in his wife’s first Preakness hat.

On May 8, Phelps lapsed into prolonged reverie about how “moving” it was to watch the governor’s wife, Kendel Ehrlich, applaud her husband after a speech. The item was captioned “Proud Kendel.”

In a May 22 item titled “Barbaro’s Tragedy” Phelps saw fit to note his winning bet on Preakness champion Bernardini.

Perhaps the most intriguing thread running so far through Phelps’ column has been his insinuation that The Sun may be involved in an “urban legend” that “there are . . . Examiner snatchers following our carriers” and making off with the newspapers. “The Calvert Street Gang is way too grown up and sophisticated to be considered suspect,” Phelps wrote May 1, employing the rather grown-up rhetorical device of apophasis, where something is asserted under the guise of denying it will be asserted.

On May 22, Phelps returned to the topic, this time publishing a message from an unnamed “reader” making more explicit insinuations against The Sun. “I think you ought to start checking on your red boxes in Baltimore,” the reader reportedly wrote. “I live in Fells Point and notice the delivery guy at one of my local boxes on Broadway every morning during my run. Three times now, the box has been cleaned out of newspapers in the span of five minutes. Two of those times, I noticed the Sun’s delivery guy lurking around the box.”

Phelps suggested in reply that perhaps the street boxes naturally emptied out quickly in the morning, but also added that he would “counsel lurkers to look for video cameras before going beyond the casual lurk.”

“Most columnists offer their opinions based on personal observation, experience, or facts,” writes Tim Thomas, vice president of marketing for The Sun, in an e-mailed statement. “In this particular instance, Mr. Phelps offers opinions in his column that are based on pure speculation. Readers are smart enough to tell the difference.”

Phelps replies: “In the columns I’ve written, I’ve been trying to provide some transparency, a look for our readers into what goes on at a metropolitan newspaper and what a newspaper publisher thinks and worries about and does. My intent has been to spur a written and verbal conversation with Baltimore Examiner readers, and that’s working nicely.”

The Calvert Street Gang says Sun publisher Denise Palmer has no immediate plans to launch her own column.

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Buying in on It (7/12/2006)
Who's On Board With The City's New "Get In On It" Campaign?

Caught! (7/5/2006)
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Behind the Glass (6/28/2006)
After 72 Years In the Same Spot, a Legendary Hollins Market Tavern Is Still Thriving--Though Its Bar Business Is All But Bellied Up.

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