Saturday, July 31, 2010
Although it was widely known and respected in the business world for its solid engineering and reliable products, Hewlett-Packard, a huge company with 121,900 employees and revenues of $42.9 billion in 1997, found itself relatively unknown to the general public. Beginning in the late 1990s, Hewlett-Packard sought to expand its presence in the consumer market. To do so, the company initiated a $75 million consumer brand strategy that included an advertising campaign called ‘‘Expanding Possibilities.’’ It was the first time in Hewlett-Packard’s 60-year history that it had tried to shed its reputation as an engineering and business firm for a more consumeroriented image. In 1997 the consumer business accounted for only a quarter of Hewlett-Packard’s revenue, but the company saw this segment as being the place where growth would come most rapidly. As the general public became more focused on technology, Hewlett-Packard wanted to have a more prominent place in the consumer’s mind.
The ‘‘Expanding Possibilities’’ campaign first appeared in the United States on November 11, 1997, in the form of three television spots that featured color printing applications people could employ in everyday situations. The ads ran through January 1998. They were aired in prime time on CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, A&E, and the Discovery Channel. In Canada the spots ran on the Hockey Night, Bravo!, Showcase, Discover, and Life Network channels. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco created the spots. The original ‘‘Expanding Possibilities’’ campaign was budgeted at $15 million for the United States and at $40 million globally.
The ‘‘Mason’’ spot showed a couple capturing their newborn baby’s wrinkled image on a Hewlett-Packard digital camera. The father downloaded the image onto a Hewlett-Packard computer, created a birth announcement, and E-mailed it to relatives. ‘‘Herta’’ featured a grandmother who took family photographs off the wall, scanned them into her Hewlett-Packard PC, and made a family history book for her children and grandchildren. ‘‘Buck’’ centered on a former Negro Leagues baseball player, Buck O’Neil, and a young friend who created their own baseball cards with O’Neil’s Hewlett-Packard scanner, PC, and printer and then sold them on the Internet.
In March 1998 Hewlett-Packard added a $12 million brand campaign with two more television spots and a print element, all created by Saatchi & Saatchi of San Francisco. The two 30-second spots ran during sports and news programs in the company’s top 10 regional markets in the United States. The schedule later included national exposure on CNN, ESPN, the Discovery Channel, and the Learning Channel. This round of the campaign, unlike the original ads, was aimed toward businesses. In one spot, for example, an airline maintenance worker discovered that it would take five months to produce a revised manual telling workers not to remove the plug in a plane’s oil pan. As an alternative, he quickly updated the manual via the Internet. The print ads appeared in the Wall Street Journal for a month. A third group of ‘‘Expanding Possibilities’’ ads that were released in October 1998 used print media, on-line services, and radio to reach corporate customers, small businesses, home users, and students.
The ‘‘Built by Engineers, Used by Ordinary People’’ campaign was pronounced an unqualified success by the company. Post-campaign quantitative research showed that the campaign had been very effective in reaching the desired targets. Those assessments were confirmed by the number of awards the campaign won during 1996 and 1997.
At the ICON Awards, sponsored by Marketing Computers and Business Week to honor excellence in high technology marketing and advertising, ‘‘Built by Engineers’’ won 1996 Best of Show ICONs for ‘‘Babysitter,’’ ‘‘Room,’’ and ‘‘Mower’’; platinum in the best advertising campaign, broadcast category; and gold in the best advertising/television campaign category. At the international Clio Awards, which recognize excellence and creativity in consumer advertising, ‘‘Babysitter,’’ ‘‘Room,’’ and ‘‘Mower’’ won best national campaign certificates, and ‘‘Baby-sitter’’ was also a certificate winner. In addition, Adweek, which publishes an annual list of the 10 best spots of the year, declared ‘‘Baby-sitter’’ to be one of the best spots of 1996. The spots won other awards as well, both in local advertising industry shows, such as the San Francisco Show, and in New York-based shows, such as The One Show.
In Europe the campaign also won a Directors and Art Directors Silver Pencil Award in London for ‘‘Babysitter.’’ Finally, ‘‘Baby-sitter’’ won a Silver Lion at the Cannes Advertising Festival.
The Red Sky interactive ad also garnered acclaim, in this case from critics of Internet advertising. Microscope, a weekly online Web ad review magazine, rated the banner ad ‘‘a perfect 10’’ and called it ‘‘the most attentiongetting ad on the Web.’’ PC World followed suit, awarding it the number one position in PC World ’s Top 10 Advertiser Achievement Awards. The ad went on to win a Platinum Award in the 1997 Marketing Computers/Business Week ICON Award for the multimedia category.
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.