HP Taps BBDO for Ads and More

Agency Will Deploy HP Printing Technology for Other Clients

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A correction has been made to this story. See below for details.

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- BBDO's slogan is "The work. The work. The work" -- which now includes working with Hewlett-Packard to improve the way the agency's clients distribute and track their direct mail, packaging, point-of-sale materials and other marketing collateral.

One part of a new arrangement between HP and BBDO involves the marketer handing the agency a relatively straightforward piece of ad business, essentially a global account that was formerly handled by Publicis. In working on the account, BBDO will partner with Omnicom Group sibling Goodby, Silverstein & Partners -- which will remain the creative engine on the business -- to continue to evolve the HP Imaging and Printing Group's "What do you have to say?" campaign.

But HP and BBDO are billing this as more than an ad deal, calling it a "strategic marketing partnership." The idea is for BBDO to work with HP, harnessing the marketer's latest printing and web products to improve the digital print supply chains for other BBDO or even Omnicom Group clients. "This isn't about one of our clients replacing their existing printers with HP printers," said Andrew Robertson, president-CEO, BBDO Worldwide. "It's about using HP's latest web technologies to help our clients' reduce printing duplication and waste, track their work better, and really take advantage of things like the ability to customize on the fly."

Andrew Robertson, president-CEO, BBDO Worldwide, said that in terms of financial considerations, Omnicom and BBDO will not be compensated for adoption of HP products.
Andrew Robertson, president-CEO, BBDO Worldwide, said that in terms of financial considerations, Omnicom and BBDO will not be compensated for adoption of HP products. Credit: Scott Gries

No quid pro quo
Ron Coughlin, senior VP-worldwide marketing for the Imaging and Printing Group, said Omnicom had already bought HP equipment in the past and that the new agreement formalizes the arrangement. He said there was no quid pro quo in terms of the deal. Specifically, Omnicom did not get the account because it agreed to buy equipment and evangelize it to its clients. Mr. Coughlin said the package will give BBDO and other Omnicom agencies a "value add" because it will enable speedier, more customizable and efficient communications.

Mr. Robertson said the deal was "bigger than 'Let's have an agency.'" Mr. Robertson said he has not yet approached any of his clients about using the HP technology for production of marketing materials, but he had some in mind.

Mr. Robertson added, however, that in terms of financial considerations, Omnicom and BBDO will not be compensated for other marketers' adoption of HP products. "We can't be in a position where we will be incentivized to do things with clients," he said. One Omnicom shop and its clients out of the HP target: TBWA, agency for Apple.

As agencies are increasingly reduced to being producers or distributors of marketing collateral for their clients, this is the sort of deal that aims to deepen the business relationship between marketer and agency, and give the agency a meaningful edge over its competitors in terms of the technologies it deploys on their behalf.

Russel Wohlwerth, principal, Ark Advisors, Playa del Rey, Calif., applauded the agreement as providing a deeper client-agency relationship that goes beyond the status of "vendor," showing an agency's worth to be more than creating a slogan. "What a great agreement -- it represents a great depth of commitment and more than a tacit endorsement of the product," he said.

Why it could backfire
However, Mr. Wohlwerth said wide-scale adoption of these types of agreements have the potential for posing a number of significant problems in the long and short term. For one, he said, it could be problematic because, if adopted on a wide scale, it would create a new level of conflicts of interest. For another, "it could backfire if the product is not best of class," he said. "Agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to do best in class for clients. If you use something not the best in class, you have a problem."

HP has a 40% share of the printers, but 1.8 share of the pages printed around the world, Mr. Coughlin said. "We are trying to enable the shift from analog to digital printing," which will allow for customization of everything from packaging to magazines and books, he said. "We are going to help them become a model for the analog to digital transformation, but also for some of their clients to modernize and get efficiency," he said.

Goodby will continue handling HP's printing business in the U.S. as the "campaign stewards," but will have increased participation from BBDO offices in London, Brazil, France and Singapore for international assignments, said Mr. Coughlin. Billings on the account were undisclosed, but estimated to be in the range of $200 million. Publicis, which handled the business awarded to BBDO, is participating in an ongoing pitch for non-U.S. below the line advertising and recently won a digital assignment via Publicis Modem.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that the thrust of the arrangement was for BBDO to sell its clients HP's printers. While the agency doesn't deny that would be a happy result of its efforts, marketer and agency insist that's not the primary aim of their partnership, and that BBDO does not become a "reseller" of printers as suggested in an earlier headline on the story.
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