Mar 10

Amazingly, HP does amazing

A change of pace from all that Apple talk. HP has been kind enough to deliver a juicy, brand-new topic into our hands. They’ve launched a new campaign with the theme Let’s do amazing.

Before I say anything, my standard disclaimer: creating great campaigns for big technology companies is not easy. In certain ways, it’s nearly impossible. None of us could produce a new HP campaign without taking shots from fellow creatives and Monday-morning strategists. So let’s be gracious and give the boys at 72andSunny some credit for what is obviously a lot of work. And then let’s pounce like wild hyenas.

First question: 72andSunny? What the hell ever happened to Goodby? Apparently, HP opened this one up to pitches and agency 72andSunny won the prize. That’s the way Goodby was rewarded for all the good work they’ve done (they’re still handling other projects for HP). I’m continually amazed by the way some clients treat their agencies. This really isn’t difficult. If you see your agency as a valuable partner, you give them the work; if you don’t, you fire their butts. It’s this twilight zone that wrecks relationships in the end.

Now, about the campaign itself. To me, it always boils down to the same thing: authenticity. In this case, I have to ask: is Let’s do amazing at all believable for HP? Does New Zealander Rhys Darby feel authentic as the personification of HP’s personality?

Unfortunately, the answer to both is no. This campaign is a perfect example of an agency fabrication. What HP does today is exactly what they did last week. One day they were “making the personal computer personal again,” the next they were “doing amazing.” There is no big new product line, no new company management, no new philosophy, nothing different at all. They are simply amazing. Groundless marketing like this is the reason most people think advertising is shallow.

I’m actually a fan of spokeperson Rhys Darby. I find him to be intelligent, curious, likable and funny. It’s just that from the start, you wonder why this guy is speaking for HP. He feels like a hired gun, and hardly a genuine reflection of HP’s corporate character. I’m entertained by Rhys, but I quickly realize I’m falling for the Gloss Effect. That’s what happens when you stack a completely unrelated layer atop a bad commercial so people might actually watch it. Kind of like Charles Schwab layering a cartoon effect over terribly boring real-person testimonials to make them watchable.

HP should really give thanks to New Zealand for this, because it’s probably the accent that makes much of this funny. Still, there are quite a few “not funny enough” moments that even Rhys’ peculiarities can’t pull off. More important, we never get any real sense of what is so amazing about HP — other than the fact that they want us to think they’re amazing.

Just as a movie must create a believable world for an audience to connect, so must an an ad campaign. HP has simply hired a comedian to tour the world and show us the big companies and easily hired celebrities who are using HP technology. The “shtick” turns out to be way too similar from place to place: people seem far more amazed that Rhys is coming to visit than they are about HP’s technology.

Exactly the way I feel.

Very curious to hear what you guys think…

(Some links if you’re interested: Dr. Dre ad, UPS ad, Rhys Darby interview about this campaign, and HP marketing chief talking about this work.)

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  • t

    Is that Justin Timberlake?

  • chris

    Is he reading from a teleprompter or cue cards? He appears to be looking slightly to our left. Bugged me. But not as much as the whole commercial. Amazing all right. Amazingly bad.

  • sfmitch

    That ad is horrendous. Not funny, not clever and celebrities endorsing computers is a giant joke.

    Do I think celebrities know absolutely anything (giant generalization that I would also use for doctors, lawyers, contractors, chefs, etc.) about computers? No.

    Oh, and those Charles Schwab ads were unwatchable (resisted the strong urge to capitalize unwatchable).

  • Kim

    The insincere smile at the very end is what really got to me. “Don’t believe a word I say”, that’s what I took away from it.

  • ChuckO

    I liked Rhys on the first season of Flight (didn’t see season 2) but the delivery here has a weird staccato, tense feel to it and wears thin very quick.

  • The sight of Ms Liebovitz next to a PC is about as likely as Ms Palin at a pro-abortion rally. Apparently she lost a lot of money recently so I guess now’s the time to get her to endorse something, even if it doesn’t ring true.

  • the Old Spice spots are waaay funnier, which is what these are trying to be …

    setting up a guy to be the bumbling doofus that interrupts your ‘amazing’ … why didn’t they get someone funny? like Eddie Izzard? or just go straight for the guys they wanted: Steve Carell / Ricky Gervais …

    and i’m sorry, what HP product was Dre using during that gratuitous visit to pop culture?

    Liebovitz is a bout as relevant to HP as Sienfeld was to MS … fail … now i feel bad if i’m not doing some amazing stuff and only doing the day-to-day bits …

  • Jimi

    I’m glad you covered this one, I was confused by it too… It’s so overly contrived that I lost all clue of what exactly the point was… Fortunately the “Let’s do Amazing” line was there at the end to confuse me further. Surely that’s being said ironically? (Given that it’s a tech ad presented by a man with a computer from 1982 in his office)

    I guess it doesn’t really matter given that 2 seconds after the ad finishes you will have forgotten which tech company it was for.

    I wonder also in an ad that supposed to be wacky like this that they would bother trying to put any sort of actual half-assed content in it, like “IT Specialists” or “UPS Guys”. It’s got that “lets go skinny dipping with our clothes on” vibe about it. If you’re going for the Rhys factor, you may as well go the whole hog and make something that people will at least remember and in turn maybe remember that it was made by HP…

    How could you go past the old chestnut of having Rhys in his shitty office with his brand new HP computer and his coffee in the cup holder… Geez…

  • Jimi

    Wow, I just watched the Chief Marketing Office video… I think from now on all average campaigns should be accompanied by a video telling us to go easy on them because the brief was really hard…

    I want to pitch a new ad to this guy:

    Rename the campaign “Go Do” and have Rhys in an office wearing his drab lime green shirt then he’s delivered a new HP computer, followed by the walls pulling away in a single-shot Michel Gondry style dream sequence of the Rhys roller skating down a brightly adorned street with 100’s of dancers to Jonsi’s ‘Go Do’ song for 30 seconds…

    At least that’d be fun to watch. Cheque please :)

  • Ken, I think you’re the only guy left who truly understands products & marketing.

  • Dr. Horvath

    Amazingly hack work.
    What is Annie the thief photographer doing in this horrible spot? They deserve each other.

  • Christopher

    I am not an Ad guy, just a person who saw the UPS ad during the NCAA Basketball tournament and went looking for the UPS ad. The reason? Because after watching it, I truly thought “Wow! UPS has some neat technology!”

    What I had no idea about until I spent 10 minutes hunting online to find out more about the ad was that the ad had anything to do with HP because I spent 28 seconds looking at a UPS logo on the shirt of a spokesperson speaking (apparently) on behalf of UPS and 2 seconds at the end seeing HP. If I were UPS, I would encourage HP to run as much free advertising as possible for my company.

    I then went ahead and looked at The Venetian ad. “The Venetian” name is on the screen for 4 seconds and has 1 mention; HP is mentioned once in passing and is on screen for 2 seconds. My greater criticism of this ad is below.

    The Dr. Dre ad: while it mentions HP 3 times, the message appears to be that Dr. Dre had to tear his HP computer apart to make his music sound the way it is supposed to. I think HP was trying to say that its standard audio is great, but that is not the message that comes across. I can just imagine Chevy following suit “The 2010 Camaro: quite a great car after you rip out and replace the engine with one from a Ferrari.”

    Despite the message becoming intractably lost and the delivery poor, the bigger criticisms of each of these ads is that they fail to do what they promise to do, which is amaze us: Are you truly awed by seeing an optical scanner at UPS in 2010 when it appears that the same or similar technology has been at your grocery store for 30 years? Is anyone amazed that there is “eye in the sky” surveillance technology in Vegas casinos which has been there since the early 1980’s? (Candidly some people might be repulsed by HP’s involvement in surveillance of people trying to have a good time). Is anyone amazed that the sound of music has gotten clearer over the years but not to the point to make Dr. Dre’s beats actually palatable to the ear?

    None of the topics reaches human genome/travel to Pluto/cure cancer type accomplishments. None of these ads explain how HP technology is making life better for any person other than the security guard at the Venetian and box clerk in the warehouse who likes rap music. None of these ads make me want to go do amazing things or to believe that HP is doing amazing things at all.