"This is an intense period in marketing software. There is a big battle looming out there," said Gerald McGee, exec VP-managing director of Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles, Microsoft's agency. "This is not a time to be silent, reticent and shrink back."
-Advertising Age, March 30, 1992, story about Microsoft's $8 million inaugural television campaign.
What a trip.
Twenty-five years after Intel Corp. created the microprocessor, and 21 years after teenager Bill Gates opened Microsoft Corp., computers are the mainstream. Agencies and media clamor for technology accounts because that's where the money, momentum and excitement are.
For a new generation, the fastest, newest software and chips are as central to the '90s as V8s, convertibles and stereos were in the '60s.
Microsoft's new programmers come straight from Hollywood to pitch ad-supported "shows" for Microsoft Network. Intel now runs trendy ads on MTV: Music Television, borrowing an idea from the once-cool Apple Computer.
Long before there was a con-sumer market, technology com-panies used small doses of con-sumer media to reach business.
Xerox Corp. put six-page ads in Fortune and Business Week in 1960 and spent $4 million to sponsor a TV series in 1964. But it was Intel's microprocessor that changed the market, and marketing, for bus-iness and consumer computers.
It took awhile. In 1971, Advertising Age's list of the 100 Leading National Advertisers included just one computer company-Sperry Rand Corp., No. 96 with spending of $11.7 million.
Even more amazing, in 1980, the year before the beginning of the PC revolution, not a single com-puter company made the top 100.
HITTING THE BILLION MARK
Flash forward: Spending in U.S. consumer media by com-puter, software and printer mar-keters in 1995 topped $1 billion for the first time.
The '95 LNA list of consumer advertisers included three tech companies-IBM, Microsoft and Intel-in the top 100, with Apple, Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Computer Corp. and Motorola Inc. not far behind.
The growth story is repeated in business-to-business advertising, where tech companies made up 51 of the nation's 100 largest spenders in the '95 ranking done by Advertising Age's Business Marketing.
FUELING A BOOM
On the media side, the tremendous growth in high-tech advertising, particularly in the b-to-b arena, helped fuel a decade-long boom in computer pub-lications.
Led primarily by publishers Ziff-Davis, CMP Media and IDG, computer publications accounted for 27 titles on the '96 Ad Age 300 listing of the biggest magazines.Indeed, the growth-both in number and size-of computer titles in recent years has itself been one of the biggest stories in the magazine industry. Cases in point, from the above-mentioned Ad Age 300 magazine listings that ran in June:
There were 14 computer magazines among the top 100 in gross revenue.
Among business (as opposed to consumer) magazines ranked by ad revenue, computer titles occupied the first nine slots and 13 of the top 15.
Also in the business category, 11 computer magazines were among the top 15 ranked by total ad pages, and six were in the top 15 when ranked by ad page growth.
And the above statistics don't even reflect the strong presence of computer advertising in consumer publications.
TECH ADS GO MAINSTREAM
The growth of computer advertising in general media shows the mainstreaming of technology since Intel invented its chip. No. 1 home PC seller Packard Bell, moving for the first time beyond retail co-op advertising, in October launched a broad TV and print campaign with spots appearing in programming as varied as NFL football and "The Young and the Restless."
Where do computer advertisers want to go today? Everywhere.
The technical part of technology is necessary, but marketing is more important. Apple Macintosh was an innovative product when it appeared, but why was (is?) Apple cool? Because of inventive marketing and advertising.
Why did the world embrace Windows rather than the just-as-good, or maybe better, IBM OS/2 or Macintosh? Because of Microsoft's incessant, smart marketing, helped along by some bungled efforts by rivals.
Why are normal people so insistent they need the fastest Pentium chip they can afford? In good part because Intel plows $700 million a year into PC co-op ads and its own campaigns, making Intel the world's largest tech ad spender.
Just what is a microprocessor in the first place? Who knows, and who cares? The answer is as irrelevant to the market as the inner workings of an internal combustion engine. V8s are fast. Pentium is fast. Fast is good. Any questions?
BRANDS WITH THE BUZZ
Momentum helps drive the tech market, and marketing helps drive momentum. Business buyers stake personal reputations on recommending a tech vendor. No one ever got fired for buying. . . IBM? Probably no longer true: The turnover in chief information officer jobs suggest that no brand makes the exec fire-proof. No one got fired this week for buying the brand with the buzz: If advertising, sales reports and pundits show Compaq to be on the rise, look like a genius and buy Compaq.
There is some security in going with a technology and brand that has sales and marketing momentum.
The same holds at home. Naive first-time buyers may opt for a cheap computer. But second-time buyers now account for more than half of home PC sales.
Intent on staving off obsolescence, these savvier buyers look for the latest features and intangibles like reputation for customer service and quality. Brands with the buzz have the advantage.
TECHNOLOGIES DIE. BRANDS ENDURE.
It's not unusual for a brand to become hot based on a new technology. The trick is to make the brand bigger than the current product so the brand lives on when technology moves on.
Microsoft figured this out. Has Netscape Communications Corp.? Netscape, so enamored of branding on the Web, has done little traditional advertising to build the brand for life after the Web browser wars.
Consider all the leading products and brands that floundered or failed when technology moved on.
WORD PROCESSING ROAD
In word processing, IBM's Selectric typewriter gave way to Wang Laboratories' word processing machines in the '70s, which in turn gave way to the pioneering WordStar software for early microcomputers.
When the IBM PC appeared in '81 with Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system, WordPerfect became the standard-only to be displaced by Microsoft Word in the early '90s when Windows became dominant.
The PC landscape is littered with brands seemingly as ancient as early cars like the Hupmobile, Maxwell and Hudson. In the '80s, PC makers like Kaypro, Eagle and Leading Edge all had shots at glory.
On the home front, Commodore, Atari and Coleco were the rage. Toymaker Coleco Industries' $600 Adam home PC, backed with a massive ad and promotional blitz, had the sort of hype in 1983 that low-cost Internet devices get today. Adam, and the early '80s home PC market, flopped.
The biggest advertiser in at least one personal computer magazine early this decade was Zeos International. But the mail-order marketer's clean, persuasive ads could-Holy cow: Gateway 2000 ads are hokey, but the company is the leading PC*mail-order brand.
Promo blitz: Shoppers in Sydney, Australia (far left) crowd store at midnight on first day Windows 95 is offered. Spread for new system (above) and banner heralding it on Toronto's CN*Tower also were part of the addvertising/marketing extravaganza.
n't overcome other business problems. Gateway 2000, with hokey ads featuring employees and cows along with a self-spoofing of the company's origins in Iowa and South Dakota, ended up as the nation's mail-order PC leader.
Brand campaigns, the trend of the moment in technology's ad land, could help more marketers stay in the game as technologies change. That is, of course, assuming companies keep an eye on the brand even after the current brand marketing craze starts to fade.
Just a handful of brands have prospered across changing technologies. Digital Equipment Corp., the standout mini-computer marketer of the '70s, has adapted new technologies and adopted an edgy attitude in ads.
The story is still unfolding, however, and financial problems are calling into question whether Digital will be a player in the new digital age. Apple's coveted brand has helped keep the marketer in the game even as its technologies-Apple II and now Macintosh-lose uniqueness.
Compaq, starting with its not exactly compact portable computer, has extended its brand across business computer categories and into the consumer market.
Microsoft came to consumer marketing late-but with a vengeance. Early on, Microsoft relied on PC makers to deliver MS-DOS.
Over time, Microsoft learned to market operating systems and applications to PC users. Microsoft now is deploying its marketing arsenal-including TV, print and Web ads to reach consumers and business-to restage the company for the Internet.
First place for building and maintaining a sustainable technology brand goes to IBM. True, Big Blue knows how to botch marketing: PCjr; OS/2; tech screwups around its '96 Summer Olympics tie-in.
But IBM more than any rival has proven it can weather changes in technology and keep itself on the brand consideration list. IBM delivers good products, strong advertising and one great brand.