Editorial: Bang for bucks?

Editorial: Bang for bucks?

I should get off the topic, I know, but I remain immensely curious about the amount of money HP must be spending on its branding and PR campaigns. Last week, an HP question arrived in the mail on a piece of very expensive photographic paper. It read: “What has HP slashed now? Watch your emails to find out more ...” Well, I thought, Ms Fiorina can spend and slash all she wants. She earned it, after all. But perhaps instead of slashing product prices (which is what the mysterious postcard was about) or limiting its credit exposure to those nasty resellers contributing to the $36.6 billion revenue target in the second half of the year, HP might want to look at limiting their exposure to pointless, paper-wasting PR gimmicks that point you to your email to find out what the gist of the matter HP is communicating to you is. Or to branding-mad executives currently digging deep into its advertising money sack.

Yes, I know advertising drives our economy through the creation of desire for the latest HP gadget and environmental preference for a NGM brand of soy-milk, just like it turns a videophone into an essential item in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I also know HP is injecting some serious dollars into the badly traumatised publishing and advertising industries. What I don’t know — but would like to find out -—is how much it would have cost the creative types at the HPDevelopment Company (these guys supposedly hold the copyright to the ads) to come up with their latest pearl: “Bang and Olufsen + hp = everything is possible”.

And I’ll tell you why: I have not done any surveys, but I strongly suspect that 95 per cent of the 719,000 readers of The Daily Telegraph — in which HP took a full-page advertising option using the B&O creative last Friday — would: (a) not care about the fact that HP allows the Danish company to ‘meet demand around the globe’; (b) don’t necessarily recognise the B&O brand, given its positioning at the very high-end of the interesting, but highly abstract image of the silk-like material coming out of an B&O speaker, is about (and if you do, please let me know); and (d) simply don’t care.

Your B&O types are more likely to be reading the Australian Financial Review, SMH or The Australian, in which, according to Media Monitoring Services (MMS), a half a page in the IT section costs upwards of $10,000 — and HP had one out of every three pages of advertising in April. Well done in terms of positioning! But I’m still not sure what these readers would get out of the silk-drapes on the black background creative, except for some minor and very temporary aesthetic pleasure (can’t quite see myself cutting it out of the paper and hanging it onto my office wall).

And then there’s the rest of the campaign. You need to spend about $3500 per month to plonk a poster on a billboard at the North Sydney train station – and, at the last count, they had at least 7 of those beaming from the walls of the dark and depressing insides of Wynyard! I have not mounted a billboard-inspecting expedition yet, but I’m guessing I would not be making any wild presumptions in saying that Wynyard and North Sydney stations are not isolated incidents at three-and-a-half grand a pop.

Yep, it’s peanuts when you earn close to $US40 billion in half a year, but a herd of elephants would certainly die of overeating if they started quantifying the noble nut variety in HP branding terms. Does it make you wonder why more than a few resellers out there are seething with anger? I thought it wouldn’t.

I mean, really, what’s the story here? Profits are down, no $US3 billion Procter and Gamble type deal is won through abstract advertising of your collaboration with B&O in The Daily Telegraph, more jobs cuts have not been ruled out, and there’s no money to support resellers in achieving market growth. And yet there seem to be squillions available to splurge on a highly impersonal and not particularly brilliantly communicated message about the HP brand. Really, can somebody let the campaign director know that, as an individual, I have no desire to be like B&O. And neither will the mention of HP’s technological brilliance in supporting B&O’s production and retail process increase my willingness or financial ability to pay a top dollar (with several zeros to follow) to acquire it. I might want to buy an iPaq at some stage, but no one’s selling it to me. And I suspect I’m not alone.

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