New Palm Campaign Continues Hardware Focus

Personal digital assistant maker Palm, Inc. is aiming to put some advertising muscle behind its new m130, m515 and i705 handhelds, with a new television campaign debuting this week.

A 30-second TV spot will continue in the vein of the Santa Clara, Calif. firm’s previous campaign, which pitched its devices based on their myriad different uses.

The new ad, designed by San Francisco-based agency of record AKQA and produced by Digital Kitchen, highlights an m130 owner using the device for organization and entertainment, while an m515 user utilizes business productivity applications. The i705, Palm’s new always-on wireless model, is shown in a segment that highlights its constant connectivity, which an owner uses to communicate with others.

The spot also encourages viewers to join the Palm community by visiting Palm.com, and by enrolling in a referral incentive program, Palm Pays Back. The program incentivizes Palm users to persuade friends to buy an m130, m515 or i705; in return, the referrer receives “Palm Bucks” redeemable online for Palm merchandise. The program runs through May 20.

“This TV ad shows a diversity of mobile-lifestyle needs that we are responding to in really useful ways, both in our product offerings and in our ongoing relationship with customers,” said Ken Wirt, senior vice president of Solutions Group Marketing for Palm, Inc. “An important aspect of the ad is that it recognizes the sense of community that has built up around Palm handhelds.”

The spot will air on national network and cable, and is scheduled to run for five weeks.

The new ad, which features music by alternative club and hip-hop duo Plastilina Mosh, continues in the tradition of previous campaigns by painting a slick, cheerful image around the variety of applications available on Palm devices. In November, the PDA manufacturer launched an ad designed by AKQA that featured the music of club group Daft Punk.

The focus on promoting Palm devices, however, is a relatively recent turn of events for the firm, which in 2000 had anticipated exiting the hardware business in favor of concentrating on licensing its operating system. But following management changes after several quarters of sluggish sales, the company instead refocused on selling PDAs, while spinning out its PalmSource subsidiary to focus on OS licensing.

That revised strategy seems to have done the company good, as the new campaign debuts with Palm in a position of strength following strong results for its third fiscal quarter, ended March 1. The company said last week that sales of the new m130 and m515 had been brisk, despite the usual seasonal slowdown in the quarter’s second and third months.

That news came as a surprise for Wall Street, as soft revenues and low margins beleaguered the company’s recent operating history. Palm’s outlook wasn’t especially rosy due to more recent concerns stemming from its lack of integrated cell phone capabilities.

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