Hewlett-Packard is one of the seminal Silicon Valley companies, rooted in the nerdy engineering-driven culture that also spawned Intel, Apple, Sun, Google and other legends in the neighborhood. Unlike Apple, which has become synonymous with cool consumer tech, HP is still mostly iconic as an engineering company that happens to sell big iron, PCs and printers. Yet, HP sold 35 million PCs and handhelds and 50 million printers in its fiscal 2006.
HP's marketing gurus Satjiv Chahil and David Roman, both former Apple marketers, have been working hard to give the HP brand an image makeover. Roman was advertising chief at Apple during the memorable "Think Different" campaign. Their latest effort is a 30-second SuperBowl XLI ad, which reportedly cost $2.6 million, that will appear in the final quarter of game taking place in Miami on February 4.
HP's SuperBowl ad features Orange Country Choppers' Paul Teutul, Sr., the burly, tatooed custom bike maker of the popular "American Chopper" reality TV show on the Discovery Channel. It's an apt choice along with the perennial beer commercials for the football watching crowd. I saw a rough cut of the ad (see image above), and it's a wild ride, worth watching. It will take full advantage of HD and surround sound, framed by the sound of Orange County Chopper motorcycles, said Roman, who is vice president for marketing communications of the Personal Systems Group.
HP is treating the SuperBowl ad, created with ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, as event marketing, but not as a one time event like Apple's famous "1984" commercial. "The big story will be the use of the Internet," Roman said. "The impact of Web this year is new to us. People will look at the Chopper ad through the Web at least us much as on TV."
HP will start populating the Web with teaser ads this week. The Web site will go live after the ad airs on Sunday, and will include a 60-second version of the ad, special product promotions and other features. "On Monday, we expect to see a big spike in traffic, and then it will take on life of own and get viral propagation. This is new territory for all us," Roman said (at left).
According to Roman, Orange County Choppers SuperBowl ad is a continuation of the successful "talking hands" commercials, with "The computer is personal again" tagline, that features celebrities such as Jay-Z, Mark Cuban, Mark Burnett, and Shawn White.
"The typical process is to first interview the celebrities working at their computers, and then come pack with script and get their feedback on it," Roman said. "The third visit, we record their voice in a one-hour session--they are doing it for free so time is short. With the hands, we bring them to a studio close by and in two hours they are done. Chopper took a full day because it has more special effects. All the graphics--bikes, spiders, snakes and flags--are themed directly from them."
Roman said that the Jay-Z talking hands ad has been the most successful so far. "He is hot and come across as genuinely interesting," Roman said. "Jay-Z gave us the music, chose his own wardrobe and made changes in the script that show in the end result. What comes across is him."
In the talking hands commercials, the face is not shown and the person is standing still, which makes a point of what the person does rather than their celebrity, Roman explained. The Chopper ad includes Teutul's face, but primarily looks out from his perspective as he rides through the animated scenery.
New ads are in the works that feature fashion designer Vera Wang and novelist Paulo Coelho. In addition, Chahil said the company is also focused on improving the industrial design of its PCs, as with the TouchSmart IQ770. Despite suboptimal thinking in handling boardroom leaks, HP is indeed thinking differently on the marketing front.
See also: HP's Wow Factor (BusinessWeek)