Sep 10

Intel’s character fetish

What is it with these people and their character-based ads? Far and away, Intel has used more zany characters to tell their story than any other technology company.

This isn’t a marketing plan, it’s an obsession.

It was the Bunny Men who started them down this dark path so many years ago — those dancing engineers, dressed in colorful cleanroom suits. Then came Homer Simpson, Blue Man Group, Aliens, Singing Processors and the forlorn Robot from this year’s Super Bowl.*

Now comes the crowning touch. Using a big chunk of their Intel-Inside cash, Intel satisfied their character addiction by renting the Penguins from Madagascar. Looks like they splurged for the Dreamworks package deal too, because the entire cast of Shrek appears (awkwardly) at the end.

Obviously Intel believes this kind of hilarity will propel them to marketing success. Only two things wrong with this theory: (1) it won’t, and (2) it ain’t funny.

If advertising were really this easy, we’d see SpongeBob for Apple and Wile E. Coyote for Google. It’s ironic: Intel tries desperately to be known as the world’s smartest company, yet they can’t bring themselves to give customers credit for having a little intelligence.

I have to say, this Penguins spot came as a surprise to me. The marketing team at Intel has totally changed over the years, and I thought for sure they’d gotten over this “wacky character” fixation. Must be something in the water over there.

(*Full disclosure: During my time as a creative director on the Intel business, I actually participated in some of these misadventures. I swear, I was blindfolded and had a gun to my head.)

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  • neilw

    I have to say that particular ad leaves me completely cold. And you’re right, the group shot at the end is indeed awkward. Not sure what their thinking is here.

    Does this type of spot count as “branding”? Because I find most (not all!) branding campaigns to be puzzling. “United Technologies… This is Momentum”. I don’t even know what that means.

    I guess this probably isn’t a branding spot (it does advertise a specific product), but at least it gave me an excuse to bring up that baffling United Technologies slogan. :)

  • ken segall

    Intel’s biggest marketing problem is that they don’t make a product, they make an ingredient. So they can either run brand ads that say “look for Intel Inside,” or they can run ads that promote specific processors — like this one does. Somehow I doubt people will be leaping out of their chairs to seek an i5-powered computer after viewing it :)

    The great brand campaigns (Nike) have worked wonders, while others are simply fluff (United Technologies). Why some companies are willing to throw millions of dollars away these efforts will remain one of the world’s great mysteries.

  • neilw

    I actually think there is some value in advertising the identity of the Core i5 processors; though consumers don’t generally shop for it directly, they’ll see the sticker when browsing laptops in Costco and make the association (with the Madagascar penguins?!). It has a sort of legitimacy. OTOH, when they see a machine nowadays with AMD branding, it probably seems like off-brand garbage, even though that is not the reality.

    Doesn’t make me understand this spot though! :)

  • bryan Birch

    I was involved in Homer.
    The idea that a processor could make anything smarter (even Homer) made sense to me. It was awarded interactive campaign of the year by the New York Art Directors Club.

    Long before me intel was diving inside the computer to show where they lived. They embraced animation as a way to show who and what they were. And what they enabled digitally.

    And they were/are the ultimate geeks and nerds. Brilliant, but uncomfortable with humans and humanity. And communications in general.