Top Performers of 2004: International Advertiser of the Year - HP

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 December 2004 12:00AM

A triumph of media thinking, brand-building and outstanding creativity, HP has outperformed its sector and also seen off the ever-consistent HSBC.

Not long ago, Hewlett-Packard was another tired, lumbering old technology giant. Famed for its printers, but hardly the vibrant, iconic global brand its chief executive, Carly Fiorina, desperately wanted it to be.

When she was appointed in 1999, Fiorina pledged to revive the values the company was founded on by two Stanford graduates in a garage in the 30s: pioneering invention - hence the corporate slogan "HP Invent", introduced soon after its merger with Compaq in 2002. She was determined to transform HP into the world's most valuable technology brand.

This year, HP has moved irresistibly close to fulfilling Fiorina's ambitions.

Spending an eye-watering $600 million across more than 90 markets, the campaign has nimbly straddled a complex range of audiences.

Big corporates have been targeted for its servers and management software, small and medium-sized businesses for its printers and computers, and the man on the street for its plasma TVs, digital cameras and iPods (as of January this year) - not to mention a master brand campaign to hold it all together.

This year, HP has built on last year's "+ HP" campaign, which first defined the company's position as the technology behind the world's most exciting brands. Whether it is Amazon, DreamWorks or the BMW Williams Formula 1 team - with HP, the advertising argued, "everything is possible".

This year the campaign, led by Goodby Silverstein & Partners (Publicis rolls out and localises Goodby Silverstein's work; ZenithOptimedia handles media), has gained purposeful momentum.

It is true that the ads have failed to seduce many awards juries this year - a bronze Lion at Cannes for the Frank Budgen-directed "next shift" was one of the few gongs. But they have done the master brand job well, giving HP some much-needed humanity and consumer appeal.

Arguably more impressive, though, has been HP's media thinking, allowing the brand to dig deep locally while building coverage globally. Hype, a real and virtual world art gallery conceived to woo the design community, has hogged the plaudits. Young artists were enticed to the Brick Lane gallery where they could then hang their work - after printing it out on a large-format HP printer. Hype won two Cannes gold Lions and a D&AD silver Pencil and, on the back of its success, is expected to open galleries in Paris, New York and Barcelona next year.

HP's sponsorship of the Discovery Channel's computer-generated history series Virtual History was a neat tie-in, as HP rendering technology was used in the making of the show. The company has, inevitably, moved into branded content too, creating the business and technology show Spark with CNN to reach the "C-suite" of consumers.

Its partnership with London's National Gallery, where it was the first advertiser to erect posters outside the building, killed two birds with one stone: promoting its role in the preservation of famous works to a business audience, while charming consumers with the chance to print out their favourite paintings - using an HP printer - inside the gallery.

But for all its invention, has the campaign worked? Critics scoff that a chronically weak balance sheet rubbishes HP's case. But the fact that Fiorina had some good news to tell Wall Street last month - revenues up 4 per cent year on year - bodes well for a player outperforming an unusually tough sector.

Whether or not this turnaround has advertising to thank is, of course, debatable, although it has laid solid foundations.

HP is making the same journey IBM made when it appointed Ogilvy & Mather ten years ago - to be a more consumer-facing global brand. After bedding down the largest merger in tech history, there is a real sense HP has rediscovered the energy and dynamism it lost in the 80s. That its perception and awareness have double-digit improvements in the key markets Germany, Japan, Korea, France, the UK and the US this year shows HP's advertising has finally broken into its stride.

As strong as the HP case is, those close to the HSBC account will be forgiven for feeling aggrieved. While HP is a story of revitalisation and innovation, HSBC is a lesson in clarity, consistency and leadership.

Remember, four years ago, the HSBC brand didn't even exist. It had different names with different consumer values in different markets: a run-of-the-mill high-street bank called Midland in the UK; an enormous financial services giant called Hong Kong Shanghai Bank in most of Asia. Adding to the confusion, it had also been on a sector-shaking acquisition spree. No question, the brand is now a global phenomenon.

With profits of £7.7 billion, HSBC has grown 37 per cent year on year.

The company now ranks as Interbrand's fifth fastest-growing global brand, up there with the relatively youthful Apple, Amazon, Yahoo! and Samsung.

Not bad for a bank.

The now-famous "the world's local bank" slogan was introduced by Lowe Worldwide in 2002, setting it apart from the one-size-fits-all approach of many of its rivals. The "never underestimate the importance of local knowledge" strapline was introduced, and this year has underpinned some memorable advertising.

That J. Walter Thompson has been careful not to tamper with HSBC's creative strategy since WPP won the account in May is testament to the strength of Lowe's idea. "Flowers", JWT's charming TV debut about an English guy, an Italian girl and a bunch of chrysanthemums, follows in the footsteps of "eel", "okey doke", "hole in one" and "wedding present", all by Lowe.

Lowe's HSBC template, the unmistakable red border and red triangle logo, has neatly contained the bank's numerous functions and sub-brands across all media globally. Its airport signage at key hubs including New York and London, plus its series of vignettes on CNN's World Sport show, have helped capture the imagination of the business traveller, while smaller one-off projects such as the first interactive ad in Times Square have seduced the general public.

An honourable mention goes to TBWA\Worldwide and OMD for Apple's iPod.

The slick, unmistakable posters and commercials of silhouetted dancing youths have helped the iPod become the must-have product of a generation of music lovers.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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