Friday, July 27, 2007

HP Targets Teens With 'Mind Control'

HP Targets Teens With 'Mind Control'

By Brian Morrissey

NEW YORK Hewlett-Packard is launching a back-to-school campaign with a twist: 70 percent of the spending will support online efforts.

The shift reverses HP's '06 back-to-school spending strategy, when the company earmarked 70 percent of the media outlay for traditional channels. The company is making the change largely because it has broadened its target audience this year from parents buying computers to include teenagers who often drive purchase decisions.

"They are to large degree the decision makers," said David Roman, vice president of worldwide marketing communications at HP's personal systems group, of the teens targeted. "We wanted to speak in an engaging way to parents and kids."

"The 'Society for Parental Mind Control'" push, created by Interpublic Group's McCann Erickson in San Francisco, centers around teens' desire to make their parents do what they want. It uses several viral elements to encourage teens to spread the message. At the center of the effort is a brand site that allows visitors to send "mind control" messages to their parents with specific products like a laptop or desktop.

The campaign has begun rolling out and will run until September.

Executions designed to drive users to the site will run on many social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and Flip. Roman said the media plan, created and executed by ZenithOptimedia, includes 80 sites, with more money going to niche areas where teens spend more of their time.

"We're going much more to the community sites than the traditional portals," he said.

Offline executions, mostly geared to parents, include a series of direct response TV ads and a Sunday supplement. Roman said the budget shift came at the expense of TV and print. HP declined to reveal overall spending for the push.

The campaign is a change not just in its media choices, but also because the company is tying what is normally a promotions-driven seasonal campaign into a broader brand message. HP a little over a year ago launched its brand campaign, "The computer is personal again," from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, featuring Jay-Z and Shaun White and positioning HP as an edgier, even hip brand.

"It's a lot more credible campaign," said Tracey Trachta, director of consumer advertising at HP's personal systems group. "I don't think two years ago we could have taken this creative approach."

HP hopes the campaign will have viral appeal through a series of offbeat, humorous clips produced by the Malloy Brothers, who have created music videos. In one, two office workers wearing tinfoil hats gather at the water cooler to discuss the effects of parents with their minds controlled by their kids. "Before I knew it, I bought my son a monster truck and let him build a half-pipe in the living room," says one. "I heard Bob in accounting put a stripper pole in his son's bedroom," replies the other worker.

The work will live on, YouTube and other video sites. (Tamer versions form the basis of some of the TV spots.) HP hopes the videos follow the viral success of "Fingerskilz," an effort from the U.K. last year purporting to show a bored office worker's fingers juggling a rolled up paper soccer ball.

Depending on the back-to-school campaign's success, the "mind control" theme could be revived for other promotional periods, such as the holiday season, Roman said.

"If we find the idea is strong, we'll keep it going," he said.

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