The result: Wireless gets a "real world" showing at home, at work, at school and on the road.
It’s fairly easy to show off the design and capabilities of a new computer. Explaining the functionalities of a computer chip inside one takes a little more time.
|The placement of Intel computers with Centrino wireless capabilities in TV shows such as 'The Scholar' proved to be an effective way to demonstrate the wireless technology to mass audiences.
However, reality TV has made things a little easier for Intel.
Intel has long used integrated communications and promotions to reach its customers, but it was only with the launch of the Centrino mobile technology in 2003 that the company decided to try product placement and sponsorships of TV shows.
Deals have included integrations into ESPN's Dream Job, CBS’ The Amazing Race, TBS' The Mansion and, the latest, ABC’s The Scholar.
That’s because Centrino is not only hard to explain, it’s also almost impossible to see without tearing apart a computer. The idea of wireless computing, despite considerable growth outside of urban areas and beyond early adopters, is still a foreign concept for most computer users.
"We can't get to every consumer for a hands-on demo, which we do a lot of, and we can't be everywhere,” said Sean Connolly, Intel's worldwide advertising manager. “These shows allow us to create a sense of the experience by showing people working and moving and using Centrino mobile technology."
In ABC’s The Scholar, 10 brainy high-schoolers competed for a fully paid college scholarship and used Intel Centrino-branded notebook computers. The series ended July 18, with Melissa winning the prize and taking home her notebook. She wasn’t the only one. All of the show’s contestants got to keep their computers.
On Dream Job, 12 contestants were given Centrino-powered laptop computers to meet challenges such as practicing and writing their weekly "My SportsCenter" highlights and creating broadcast packages at Major League Baseball's 2004 spring training camp. Intel also ran online advertising and a promotion for fans to win their own wireless laptop.
With The Amazing Race, Intel’s Centrino was used to get one of the clues downloaded from a hotspot in Eastern Europe to a notebook computer.
The Mansion again put Centrino-powered notebooks in contestants’ hands, this time to research, shop and design rooms. Intel also installed a wireless home network in the mansion where the contestants lived, and gave laptops to the judges for the scoring and tracking of contestants’ achievements.
The shows provided Intel with a demographic smorgasbord, with The Scholar connecting with academia, Dream Job showcasing work-life usage, The Amazing Race featuring Centrino on the road, and The Mansion showing off its wireless utility around the house.
The diversity of programming was intentional. Intel didn’t want to choose a particular type of show or format, but rather demonstrate the value of Centrino at work, at home, at school and on the go, Mr. Connolly said.
"No one cares what's inside the computer, so how does Intel get someone to pay attention?" said analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "They have to try to showcase the technology, like in these reality shows, to show what it can do for you. They did a great job connecting Centrino to mobility."
Because of the success of the initial reality show placements, Intel is now considering a new season of opportunities, as well as evaluating film properties, extending co-branded offers to some of its computer partners and possibly using sponsorship to promote other upcoming Intel products.
Intel determines each show's success by using its own scorecard formula that consists of a 1-10 rating system for a variety of questions. Those include: Was there an appropriate use of the technology? Was there a demonstration of particular Centrino benefits such as battery life? Was the brand visible and for how long? And was there verbal messaging about Centrino in the program?
The results are evaluated and weighed along with other factors, such as the audience size of each show and their relative cost, to determine success.
While Mr. Connolly would not name numbers, he did say that they were very happy with the results of all the integrations to date.
"With The Scholar in particular, we found what we think are very natural fits for the technology,” Mr. Connolly said. “We really provided an enabling technology to the participants that they wouldn't have had.”