Carly's legacy: Unified voice at risk as HP CEO departs

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In the early `90s, Saatchi & Saatchi Creative Director Rob Ingalls had at least nine cubbyholes behind his desk. They were all for Hewlett-Packard-one for each division's marketing director. Saatchi had won HP's consumer advertising account, but as far as Mr. Ingalls was concerned he had 19 different clients.

a single voice

Carly Fiorina put an end to that kind of fragmented, fiefdom-based marketing and reinvented HP by transforming it from a slow-moving, engineering-driven company to a consumer-driven organization, with a unified ad voice and a single, clear marketing direction. She even formed alliances with other companies, such as Apple, that stress the consumer in their thinking, rather than the technology.

Her ouster could spell the end of a great ad campaign, the end of those alliances and the end of this consumer-driven approach.

Shareholders' demands for a spinoff of the printer division will likely end HP's vaunted "One Voice" unified ad program championed by Ms. Fiorina, said people close to the company. And Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the agency behind the campaign?

"Who knows? The nature of the ad business often means changes in agencies," said one executive close to HP.

If there are changes a lot is at stake. HP is the largest advertiser in its field globally, having spent around $1.8 billion in both 2003 and 2004. At present the creative duties are split between Goodby-which handles corporate branding, image work and global creative direction-and Publicis & Hal Riney and other Publicis Groupe shops, which handle product work and other functions.

The fate of HP's key marketing executives, such as Allison Johnson, senior VP-global brand and communications, and Gary Elliott, VP-global brand and marketing communications, will also be determined as the venerable Silicon Valley firm writes its post-Carly chapter. Ms. Johnson, or A.J. as she is known, sat in an office feet away from Ms. Fiorina. At one point, the art on her walls included framed ads. Ms. Johnson dismissed talk she was distancing herself from the Carly tumult and defended HP's integrated brand approach. "It was a monumental undertaking in a company of this size."

Love her or hate her, Ms. Fiorina galvanized and advanced technology marketing not only at HP, but also in the industry, in a way few others have. The deal to resell Apple iPods is inconceivable without her personal efforts, her tie-ins with movie makers like Disney and Dreamworks were groundbreaking and partnerships with hip and cutting-edge brands like MTV and Starbucks brought HP the cachet it struggled to attain on its own.

Ms. Fiorina further used marketing not just to woo customers, but to fight her corporate battles. She broke the mold on shareholder fights, enlisting Omnicom Group's Goodby, San Francisco, to develop a general media campaign to win shareholder votes required to approve her even now controversial $25 billion takeover of Compaq Computer.

the founders

Her target was none other than Walter Hewlett, the mild-mannered son of HP co-founder William Hewlett. Although he carried the company name, she used the corporate founders in her ads. One ad showed photos of the founders and its earliest invention, the audio oscillator. The headline read: "What if we had stopped here?" with copy that alluded to the younger Mr. Hewlett's opposition: "Even now, some suggest we might stop at printers."

Whether her efforts and expenditures will be viewed historically as good for HP or if a new CEO will pilot a return to the scattershot marketing of Mr. Ingall's day remains to be seen.

"I know people will be dancing for joy because she has left," said one executive familiar with HP's marketing. "But she was a real visionary and an incredible leader. When you were in the room with her, you knew you were in the room with a star. She could stake out a vision and enable others to see and feel that vision."

Many CEOs feel uncomfortable with marketing, but not Ms. Fiorina, the executive said. "She gets the big picture in ways few people do." He added, "Was it perfect? No."


Indeed, her tenure was a study in contradictions: She loved media attention, but hated being on women's power lists; she alienated the media with her curt persona, but was polite and intellectual in person; she had a highly visible and popular image, but managed it poorly. In the end, it was one of those contrasts that played into her downfall. Despite her marketing expertise, she seemed to possess little skill in reading people. She not only put off reporters and analysts, but repeatedly misread her own lieutenants and board members. She underestimated Mr. Hewlett and pushed so hard he almost had to fight back. Compaq chief Michael Cappellas left because she wouldn't or couldn't share the top job.

"That shortcoming in the end cost her the job," said Rob Enderle, of the Enderle Group. "She really understood marketing in a broad way, but I'm not convinced she actually [grasped] some of the aspects of the behavioral stuff. " That work includes defining just who and what HP is. Ms. Fiorina tended to default to the marketplace and Wall Street definition of HP, that is, not Dell and not IBM.

"There were a couple of important things she brought. She shook the organization up and brought a lot more vitality, excitement and aggressiveness back. And she put the focus on marketing, which had always been a shortcoming of HP," said Gartner Group analyst Van Baker. "If they replace her with someone who goes back to the old way of HP marketing, that's the kiss of death for them."

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