In 1980, after buying the advertising business of PR firm Regis McKenna that had handled Intel, Chiat/Day acquired the Intel account. While Chiat/Day's work for Intel was respected, an emerging computer industry trend took Intel in new directions.
Personal computers flooded the market in the 1980s, leading users to seek a point of differentiation among machines. Computer buyers began to refer to computers by their configurations, and Intel's "286" and "386" chips became that reference point. Worried that "386" and future microprocessor names would eventually become generic, Intel launched a trademark effort mandating that its name appear in all ads that mentioned its microprocessors.
In 1989, Intel placed its account into review, and Shafer & Shafer, Irvine, Calif., a little-known agency, was tapped to create Intel's first campaign promoting microprocessors to end users. The $20 million print and outdoor effort encouraged users of the 286 chips to upgrade to 386 machines. The ads showed a red "X" painted over the number 286 followed by a 386.
In 1990, Intel moved its account to Dahlin Smith White, Salt Lake City, which developed the "Intel inside" theme and logo. In 1991, Intel launched a multimillion-dollar campaign for its new 486 chip. Print ads and—for the first time—TV spots drove consumers to demand 486 machines. Over a period of days, computer makers—which had resisted developing PCs around the 386 chip due to lack of demand—announced new 486-based PCs.
The "Intel inside" slogan debuted in July 1991 in a global corporate print, TV and outdoor campaign. The first TV ad took viewers on a virtual trip inside a PC, entering through the disk drive, winding past the hard drive and coming to rest on the central processing unit stamped with the Intel logo.
In the fall of 1991, Intel allocated funds for participating hardware manufacturers to use in advertising that incorporated the "Intel inside" theme or logo. Within a few months, more than 300 original equipment manufacturers were participating in the co-op project. By mid-1997, 1,500 manufacturers were participating and Intel extended the program to Internet advertising.
In February 1994, DSW and Intel launched a consumer and business TV and print campaign, spending more than $150 million on Intel's Pentium processors (the marketer began using the "Pentium" with its "586" chips as a way of branding its product). Driven by ongoing "Intel inside" advertising, 1994 revenue for Intel reached $8.8 billion, up more than 50% since 1992.
In 1996, Intel consolidated its $100 million account (previously divided among Dahlin Smith White in the U.S. and some overseas markets, Publicis in Europe and DPTO Propaganda & Marketing and Adler Publicidad de Occidente in Latin America) at Euro RSCG, Paris, after Euro RSCG acquired a majority interest in Dahlin Smith White. Dominating the microprocessor market with an 80% share, Intel's 1996 sales reached $20.8 billion.
Intel and Euro RSCG/Dahlin Smith White's advertising efforts continued in 1997 with a January campaign showcasing the MMX Pentium processor in two commercials. In one, actor Jason Alexander tried to impress potential dates while using Intel's videoconferencing technology. The other campaign, "Bunny People," debuted during the Super Bowl and showed technicians in "Bunny suits," the garments worn in sterile chip-manufacturing environments, dancing to hit music as they "put fun" into MMX Pentium processors.
In May, Intel launched the Pentium II with an estimated $20 million global print and World Wide Web business campaign. Media used included newspapers, business and computer publications and the Internet; the ads directed corporate buyers to a new section of Intel's Web site. Intel's 1997 ad budget reached $900 million—$150 million for its own ads and $750 million in co-op placements—making it the world's leading tech advertiser and one of the largest consumer advertisers.
Early in 1998, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, joined Intel's roster of agencies for consumer advertising; Euro RSCG/Dahlin Smith White retained business-to-business and interactive duties. Messner Vetere's first ad launched in September with TV spots showing that, in a world short on processing power, a parachute does not open on time and a baseball does not reach home plate. The ads close with the question, "Time for a Pentium II processor?"
With competition intensifying and its market share eroding to less than 80%, Intel supported the February 1999 introduction of Pentium III chips with $300 million in billboard, newspaper, TV and radio advertising. The ads replaced the Pentium II "Bunny people" with a blue door to represent the chip and a new tagline, "This way in," to link the chip with Internet usage. That same year, Intel awarded Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG its business-to-business advertising responsibilities.
In 2000, Intel's ad budget reached approximately $800 million and spending on the decade-old Intel Inside co-op program approached $1.5 billion globally.
For the $300 million February 2001 launch of the Pentium 4, Intel executed a worldwide, multimedia effort featuring Blue Man Group with the tagline, "The Pentium 4 processor. The center of your digital world." At the end of 2001, Intel revised its Pentium 4 campaign. Under the existing tag, the "Technology Quest" campaign showed aliens searching for advanced technology on Earth. After locating a Pentium 4-powered PC, the aliens experiment with digital media.
Intel went "unwired" in 2003 with a $300 million marketing campaign for its Centrino technology designed for mobile computing. Ads from the merged Havas/Euro MVBMS Partners, New York, sought to hit home the "Unwire" theme by showing business people connecting from unusual places such as a diving board or golf driving range.