HP in Search of Agency for Branding Project

Looks Beyond Lead Shop Goodby for Assignment to Give Company a Unified Voice

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Hewlett Packard is reaching out beyond its agency of record, Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners, for a branding project, and the tech marketer has contacted a mix of hotshot and traditional creative and digital agencies to contribute ideas, executives familiar with the situation said.

The assignment is described by industry executives as a project that would give the tech giant, which is well known for its siloed divisions, a unified voice. HP's senior VP-chief marketing officer, Michael Mendenhall, is leading the search. The move is not an attempt to replace Goodby as HP's lead global creative agency. It would not be the first time Mr. Mendenhall has sought outside marketing help. He hired McGarryBowen in early 2008 for unspecified corporate work on a project basis.

A spokesperson for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based marketer declined to comment.

HP spent a total of $412 million on marketing last year in the U.S. alone, making it the 88th largest national advertiser, according to Ad Age's DataCenter. Globally, its account is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

The bulk of HP's advertising is handled by Omnicom Group agencies: Omnicom Media Group nabbed the marketer's massive global media-planning and buying business earlier this year, while on the creative side, Goodby serves as lead agency and BBDO has expanded its role on the roster after HP consolidated its printing and imaging business with the shop. Publicis Groupe agencies also have a significant chunk of business, as Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Modem earlier this year were tapped to handle above-the-line advertising for HP's personal-computers division across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

HP has long maintained three separate business groups: imaging and printing, personal computing systems and enterprise business, each run independently with little marketing crossover. The PCS, or computer group, has raised HP's overall brand awareness and garnered kudos for its campaign, "The Computer is Personal Again," which was crafted along with Goodby and overseen by marketing executives Satjiv Chahil and David Roman. The imaging and printing unit had run its own campaign for printers, "What do you have to say?" featuring celebrities such as singer Gwen Stefani (a spokeswoman for the division) and snowboard entrepreneur Jake Burton, but this year has run a more cost-effectiveness-themed printer campaign.

The search comes as HP is reportedly mulling a change of those silos, with a company reorganization that could possibly combine the computer and printing groups into one business unit. It also comes on the heels of several multibillion-dollar acquisitions of large tech companies: HP acquired EDS last year and last month announced its intent to buy 3Com.

HP hasn't run a company-wide unified ad campaign since former senior VP-marketing Allison Johnson -- under the regime of former chairman-CEO Carly Fiorina (both left within weeks of each other in 2005) -- helmed an effort dubbed "Operation One Voice." Goodby worked on that effort, which was discontinued after Chairman-CEO and President Mark Hurd joined HP more than four years ago. Mr. Hurd appointed HP veteran Cathy Lyons to the CMO job in June 2005. Ms. Lyons stepped down in May 2007, and Mr. Mendenhall took over the role in October 2007, joining HP after 17 years at the Walt Disney Co.