Saturday, July 31, 2010
The Hewlett-Packard advertising account had been held since 1988 by Saatchi & Saatchi in San Francisco, but the company decided against asking them to carry out the new campaign. According to the San Jose Business Journal, this was partially because of a 1995 print campaign that cost more than $30 million but failed to leave any lasting impression on consumers. Arlene King, peripherals-advertising manager at Hewlett-Packard, had another explanation for the move. ‘‘We wanted to get more visible advertising than we did in the past. We had been with Saatchi for eight years and we were becoming too alike.’’ In May 1996 HP chose Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco to head the $40 million printer advertising account (Saatchi did, however, retain the PC portion of the Hewlett-Packard account). Goodby Silverstein & Partners had previously been known for creative and popular campaigns such as the ‘‘Got Milk?’’ ads for the California Milk Processor Board.
In consumer research, Goodby Silverstein found that most people associated Hewlett-Packard with technical strength and reliability. Therefore, the new campaign needed to link Hewlett-Packard’s heritage as an engineering company and its reputation for building reliable products with the usefulness of HP products in ‘‘ordinary’’ situations. In short, the challenge was to humanize the face of technical prowess by giving complicated engineering a human face.
The $10.5 million Goodby Silverstein campaign for Hewlett-Packard, ‘‘Built by Engineers, Used by Ordinary People,’’ solved the dilemma by poking gentle fun at its own engineers while illustrating the excellence of HP products, particularly the 693 DeskJet printer, for use in the home, and the LaserJet 5si Mopier (multiple originals copier), a network printer for large-scale commercial use.
The year-long campaign was two-pronged, targeting both individual consumers and corporate entities. It featured television spots that ran from late November 1996 through late February 1997 on CNN and national networks. Those were supplemented by print ads in publications like Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, PC Magazine, PC Week, and PC Computing that ran beyond the close of the television segment. In addition, the San Francisco-based interactive ad agency Red Sky developed an interactive ad that could be viewed on the Internet though the end of February 1997.
The Goodby Silverstein television spots showed both the ordinary and the extraordinary uses to which Hewlett-Packard printers can be put. In ‘‘Mower,’’ the first of the ‘‘corporate side ads,’’ a nerdy-looking announcer sporting a bow tie lists what a Mopier can do (print, staple, collate) and then jokes that the only thing it cannot do is mow the lawn. That serves as enough of a challenge to HP engineers, who immediately begin reconfiguring the printer. In the next scene the Mopier is turned on its side charging around an overgrown field, having been transformed by the company’s engineers into a lawnmower.
In a second spot, ‘‘Translation,’’ the interviewer asks an HP engineer to explain exactly how a Mopier works. The engineer answers in highly technical jargon, which is translated for the layperson in a running voice-over. In both of these spots the engineers were actual Hewlett-Packard employees.
In the consumer-oriented spots, the usefulness of HP products in personal situations was demonstrated. In the ‘‘Baby-sitter’’ spot, an elderly man babysitting his infant granddaughter panics when she wakes up and begins to cry for her mother. Suddenly he has a brilliant idea: he grabs a picture of the mother and turns on his DeskJet printer. When the mother returns, she sees the grandfather—with a color print of the mother pasted on his face—holding the peacefully sleeping baby. In a similar ad (‘‘Room’’), a teenager whose mother checks up on him through the key hole on his bedroom door fools her into thinking he has finally cleaned his extremely messy room by making a color printout of a picture of the room in a pristine state and positioning it just beyond the key hole.
The interactive ad developed by Red Sky was an extension of the television and print campaign into the electronic medium. It carried on the playfulness of the television spots but was also very different, using as it did the interactive capabilities of online advertising. As Joel Hladecek, Red Sky’s chief creative director, told the San Francisco Business Times, ‘‘There are two rules of advertising in this medium. The audience has the ability to choose what it’s interested in, and people will avoid advertising if they can.’’
Red Sky responded by burying the advertising message within entertainment. Their 1997 Pong advertising banner for Hewlett-Packard, promoting the LaserJet Mopier, played off the print and television tag line. Viewers used Shockwave technology to play games of Pong with an engineer named Jerry. They were initially drawn to the ad by the familiar sound of a ping-pong game. They then discovered that the ad was more than just a banner: it was an interactive game in which they could use their mouse to actually play along. The ad ran through February 1997 at various sites.