HP Launches Online Infrastructure Pitch

In the wake of its announced plans to acquire Compaq, venerable computer maker Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a multimillion Web advertising campaign designed to promote a little-known aspect of its business — but one that will figure heavily in the merger.

Working with the San Francisco office of Interpublic-owned Modem Media — HP’s online agency of record — the Palo Alto, Calif.-based PC giant intends to launch an effort designed to pitch its infrastructure services, which it feels are both underappreciated by the industry and an integral part of the company, especially post-merger.

“This is basically HP’s big play for the year,” said Channing Miller, online advertising manager for HP’s worldwide business customer organization. “It’s a really big thing in the market. IBM and some of the other players are already out there with messages about infrastructure. HP has always had a strong infrastructure business, but we just haven’t done that much advertising.”

The “Infrastructure” campaign’s Web, print, and outdoor creatives aim to introduce HP’s server, software, storage and consulting practices by relating the day-to-day problems faced by IT executives as they handle system integration and management.

Earlier this year, HP made waves with its innovative rich media banners (designed by Modem and Freestyle Interactive) in support of its “Invent” campaign — which served as both a corporate branding effort, and a promotion of its HP Labs unit. (The online creatives went on to take several Clios, the ad industry’s highest honor.)

But unlike the previous “Invent” work, which was similar thematically to HP’s offline ads but bore little visual resemblance, the new campaign’s animated rich media banners and large rectangle ads are meant to appear largely the same as offline creatives developed by traditional agency of record Publicis & Hal Riney.

“HP, for the first time, will have very, very tight integration of all units of the campaign,” Miller said. “You’ll see the same messaging and same visuals. So rather than try to be inventive online, we’re really trying to map creative presence and presence of banners an experience we’d developing online to … other advertising for the infrastructure.”

The ads all feature the tagline, “Infrastructure: It Starts With You,” which is meant to evoke the idea that instead of approaching customers with a preconceived solution, HP listens to clients’ needs and builds infrastructure accordingly.

In addition to sharing similar visual elements, the online and offline work both aim to send traffic to a special subsite on hp.com, which will serve as a portal for HP’s infrastructure products and services.

“We’ve tried to have the user experience not end with the ad,” Miller said. “Whether they’re coming from outdoor, print or an online banner, they’re going to go to an online environment that builds on the information surrounding HP’s infrastructure solution.”

The campaign launches on Oct. 8 and runs for about a month, with new flights launching after the end of HP’s fiscal year in November. Miller said that the company is considering using video in upcoming ads to show specific customers, the IT problems they face, and how HP’s infrastructure offerings can address those problems.

HP’s online media buy includes IT sites including CNET, CIO.com and internet.com (an INT Media unit and the parent of internetnews.com). Most of the buys are exclusive, so that HP will be featured alone on the Web page.

The media plan also includes a host of financial sites — crucial to HP’s case to the investor community that its proposed purchase of competitor Compaq is a smart move, especially following the trouncing that HP’s stock received in the days following the acquisition’s announcement.

“HP’s infrastructure business … is very important to the merger,” said a spokesperson. “The campaign underscores HP’s commitment to enterprise computing, which is one of the strategic pillars of our merger with Compaq.”

Added Miller, “Any and all advertising right now is positioning the company strongly. Whether [advertising is] about the brand or the solution, we’re always cognizant that HP is a strong brand, and will always be a strong brand, and so any advertising we do we’d have contribute to that.”

Accordingly, ads will run running on sites such as FT.com, CNNfn.com, Forbes.com and BusinessWeek.com, among other online publications.

With all that’s riding on it then, it’s not surprising that HP is throwing serious money behind the effort. The firm declined to disclose its spending, but Miller described the ads as “probably one of HP’s biggest campaigns for the year … and probably one of HP’s heaviest investments yet.”

A spokesperson confirmed that the campaign spending totaled well into the millions. Last year, the company spent about $161 million on media.

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