Firefox will begin broadcasting, for the first time, four "fan-produced" commercials on prime time television. Initially the ads will only run in the San Francisco and Boston regions, but this will be expanded over time. The 4 video ads are a sampling of approximately 300 clips which were submitted to Mozilla's Firefox Flicks program. The theme of the ads is that Firefox is "the safest, fastest and most enjoyable way to experience the Web." The ads are also partly sponsored by Firefox fans - and Mozilla will insert the names of those sponsors at the end of each commercial.Later today
I spoke to Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's director of community development, at the end of last week in anticipation of the TV advertising launch. I'd previously spoken to Chris Beard (Mozilla's vice president of products) in October when Firefox 2.0 launched. At that time Chris had mentioned the tv ads were coming, so it was great to catch up with Asa last week to get the full skinny.
TV commercial sponsors and demographics
We started by talking about the sponsorship model, where Firefox fans can sponsor the commercials. As of now there will be 16-18 sponsors named per ad, but the plan is to scale this up and rotate the names of thousands (or tens of thousands) of sponsors. People can contribute as little as $10. For the initial period, it was first-come-first-served - the first 72 people who donated $10 have their names on the initial 4 ads. So to be clear, these are individuals sponsoring the ads - not commercial entities (although Asa said in future they may open it up to friendly organizations).
As for which tv companies Mozilla is targeting, they're going after prime time cable channels like Comedy Central, ESPN, TNT, History Channel, USA, and MTV. In terms of demographics, they're targeting people who they think are willing to download and try Firefox. People who they hope will be responsive to learning about Firefox and their brand. But Asa said they're not targeting particular age groups. In an earlier blog post, Asa described their target audience as "savvy web users".
Firefox and Social Networks
I asked Asa whether Firefox uses social networks to promote itself - I citied R/WW's post last week about Campari's use of social networks to market their brand. Firefox has indeed used social networks, but they've always had their community to do the promotion for them (i.e. they haven't had to force it, like Campari and most other commercial brands). Indeed Asa said that Firefox has used social networks right from the beginning - via grass roots, online community action. He says their community put some of the Firefox Flicks videos onto YouTube, where he said they got 2-3 million views - more than they actually got on their own Flicks site (Asa estimated a couple of million there).
Asa also mentioned an upcoming campaign using Facebook. They have a "sponsored group" there and they will launch a campus outreach program soon - which will involve having nominated students be Firefox's representatives "on the ground" for distribution. Additionally Facebook has built a "Firefox companion", which will be a set of tools and extensions for Facebook (for notifications, status alerts etc when students are not logged onto Facebook's website). They're looking at this as a prototype that they may use for the likes of MySpace and Orkut in future.
International Firefox community
I asked Asa what Firefox's community is like overseas and how they will promote Firefox in non-US markets - given that the TV ads will only air in the US. Asa mentioned the Japan community is very strong - and has been active since 1999. He said there is a group in Japan called the Mozilla-gumi - who are doing outreach and volunteer work for Mozilla. They describe themselves on their homepage as follows:
"Mozilla-gumi is a community of Japanese Mozilla developers, translators, QA and web standards evangelists. We maintain a Japanese localization of Mozilla, Japanese translations of mozilla.org documentation and also a Japanese Bugzilla server."
It's a bottom-up social approach and includes things like beach clean-ups and attending street costume parties. Asa also mentioned newer efforts in places like Korea and Taiwan. He noted that Europe too is very strong and cited localization efforts (language translations, etc) that are happening worldwide.
The TV commercials show that Mozilla is starting to reach out to mainstream, but still web savvy, audiences in order to ramp up its competition with Microsoft's IE browser. It's kind of an odd step going from a 40,000 square-foot Firefox crop circle in an Oregon oat field (which happened in August) to TV commercials on prime time networks! But it shows what can be done with a popular open source community and the power of the Web.
The TV ads will no doubt be released to social networks in due course - e.g. YouTube. Personally I'd love to see the TV ads go international - we get MTV in New Zealand too! In any case, Mozilla is doing sterling work promoting its open source browser to the world.