Good Commercial, Poor Domain Choice |

Good Commercial, Poor Domain Choice


I just saw a television commercial sponsored by the United States Postal Service, and although I am not surprised by the lack of forward thinking, I am shaking my head that the USPS just doesn’t get it.  

The advertisement (during primetime MLB playoffs) begins with a disheveled looking man walking onto a bus and choosing a seat next to a woman.  He begins by informing her that she just won a random lottery sponsored by a clearly fictitious organization.  To claim the multi-million dollar prize, all she needs to do is write the man a check to cover some random fees.  Essentially, the man is playing the part of an in-person Nigerian scammer commonly seen online.

It is a clever advertisement (and ongoing campaign) playing on the fact that these scams are much more obvious in person than online, and people need to beware when they receive suspicious emails.  I dig the message.  I think it is very important for non-web savvy people to know about these scams, know how to spot them, and know what to do when they come across one.

HOWEVER, the commercial ends with a large graphic directing people to visit for more information.  GUESS WHAT!  FakeChecks.COM is owned by someone else.  How many people do you think will accidentally directly navigate to the .com in error – especially considering some web browsers automatically enter the .com extension?  The USPS should never have used a .org domain name where the .com is taken.  If they needed to have that specific .org, they should have bought the .com for whatever it cost.  They then should have forwarded the .com traffic to the .org so they didn’t lose any eyes. The advertising campaign probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Why would they chance sending confused consumers to the wrong domain name, especially considering the message.    

This reminds me of the time Dick Cheney quoted something from and accidentally directed people to, owned by none other than Frank Schilling.

This has to be one of the most ironic, idiotic campaigns I’ve seen in a long time. The USPS just doesn’t get it!  

Just to be a bit more clear, I am not advocating that the USPS shouldn’t have used a .org.  I think the .org suits this campaign quite well.  I think they might have been wise to choose another domain name where the .com was available, as people will inevitably enter the wrong extension.  In my opinion, many consumers are trained to goto the “.com” extension.  Why take a chance that some consumers will do this and end up on a site not controlled by the USPS. 

About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.

Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | | Facebook | Email

Comments (3)

    Moe Howard

    Sorry Elliot but you don’t get it. The site is not maintained by the US Postal Service. All your ranting is directed at the wrong party. And how hard is it for people to type in org instead of com anyway? If you’re a savvy user, you know the difference in domains. Buy the dotcom site name for any cost? Get real. Cyber squatters are everywhere and why contribute to the practice by paying these guys off? Also, have you checked out the webisode videos on youtube? The USPS gets that, it seems.


    It is my opinion that when a company/organization runs a television commercial where they expect viewers to remember the domain name, they should have all extensions in case the viewer accidentally forgets its a .org. In this case, the owner of the .com has owned the name since 2003, 4 years before the USPS bought the .org, so he is clearly not a cybersquatter. To be more effective, I think the USPS should have either picked a domain name where all extensions were owned, or they should have tried to buy the .com.

    According to the Whois listing, the name is owned by the USPS:

    Registrant Name:US Postal Inspection Service
    Registrant Organization:US Postal Inspection Service
    Registrant Street1:2111 Wilson Blvd, Suite 500

    October 4th, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Alexa Raad

    Hi Elliot
    I read with interest your blog on the USPS commercial. Not that I follow USPS, I do not. But I noted your statement about the choice of domain name.

    I am not going to comment on the quality of the USPS commercial, as that is not my expertise. But as the CEO of .org registry I do challenge the statement ” If they needed to have that specific .org, they should have bought the .com for whatever it cost.”

    1. The statement assumes consumers assumes that when going to a site that provides them valuable info (and one whose info they have to trust) consumers prefer to go to a .com address. That is not entirely accurate.
    For one thing, consumer research (in 2004 by us and 2007 by Modernista) has shown a “.org” address to be viewed as a trustworthy address. Why? it has to do with the kinds of companies who have and who actively advertise their “.org” address. A recent example is TIAA-CREF. Go to their website and see the first few lines “Welcome to Welcome to TIAA-CREF. We are a dot-org, not a dot-com.” Their multi-million dollar ad campaign and company positioning runs contrary to this assertion. you can also look at the NY times article which goes into a bit more detail on the .com or .org issue.

    2- lets look at independnt reports from McAfee: such as Look over to the column ranking gTLDs. What you will see is .org being listed as amongst the lowest in risk (only .gov and .edu are lower) so once again, it is not without reason that when consumers look to find relevant and trustworthy information, they tend to want to look for it in a .org address.

    Again, I will not argue the merits of the ad with you, that is not my intent. Only to point out that their choice of a .org address is well placed, not only in terms of research in consumer behavior.


    My opinion is that many consumers are “trained” to visit the .com. I wholeheartedly agree that the .org is the smart address to have for this campaign. My argument is that I think they should have either secured the .com in the aftermarket, or they should have registered a domain name where the .com is available. Although most people will remember to goto the .org, inevitably, there will be people who accidentally directly navigate to the .com. They will either do this forgetting to use the .org, or they will just type in “FakeChecks” in their browser bar, and if they use Safari, it will automatically enter the .com.

    This would be different if the only campaign was strictly click-through, but whenever consumers must remember the extension, it is better to make sure all extensions are forwarded to the promoted extension.

    October 4th, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Alexa Raad

    Hi Elliot
    Thanks for quickly posting my response and for your clarification. This is a good dialogue to have.

    I also agree “… whenever consumers must remember the extension, it is better to make sure all extensions are forwarded to the promoted extension.” which in this case is the ligitimate .org

    But buying those other extensions at whatever cost… I believe we would only be feeding the problem by lining the pockets of those who create no intrinsic economic value but prey on the fears of legitimate brand holders.


    I disagree with the comment about “feeding the problem by lining the pockets of those who create no intrinsic economic value but prey on the fears of legitimate brand holders.” The owner of the .com name in this case has had his name since 2003. The USPS bought their name in June of 2007. The beauty of the internet is that anyone can buy any domain name as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s trademark. This is not the case with

    Inevitably, someone will accidentally visit the .com site and call the owner a “cybersquatter” – or worse – a scammer thinking that they are going to the USPS site. This is unfortunate because that certainly is not the case. Had the USPS bought and promoted an unregistered name like, they could have also bought and forwarded all that traffic, as those names are both available and never before registered.

    To sum up, I agree that the .org is the strongest extension for this name, but not owning the .com could create some confusion.

    October 4th, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Leave a Reply

Name *

Mail *