COMPAQ DOUBLES CONSUMER ADS TO DRIVE TOP MODELS: YEAR-ROUND EFFORT KICKS OFF WITH WORK FROM FORMER SHOP AMMIRATI

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Compaq Computer Corp. is doubling its U.S. consumer ad budget to about $50 million and promising a year-round campaign intended to drive demand for the home PC leader's higher-price models.

The campaign begins in early July with ads in People, Time, Smithsonian, FamilyPC and other consumer and consumer-computing magazines. TV starts in mid-July on CNN, ESPN and other cable networks.

Compaq also plans newspaper ads and inserts.

EFFORT FROM AMMIRATI

The campaign was created by former shop Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, and is separate from business brand advertising that began June 12 from new agency DDB Needham Worldwide. Compaq's global ad budget is an estimated $300 million.

DDB Needham at some point will take over consumer products work, though the timing isn't set, said Leslie Adams, director of consumer marketing.

"I think there is tremendous opportunity for us to adopt the look and feel of the corporate campaign and integrate it as much as possible in the consumer campaign," Ms. Adams said.

While Compaq is roughly doubling its own consumer advertising effort, it spends considerably more than $50 million a year on another aspect of consumer marketing -- retailer co-op ads, Ms. Adams said.

The company has advertised to consumers in fits and starts since introducing the Presario home PC in 1993.

Compaq will continue to concentrate on key selling periods, such as Christmas and back-to-school. But Ms. Adams said Compaq intends to have a continual flow of ads year-round, partly reflecting the less seasonal nature of higher-end PC sales.

SUB-$1,000 PC REVOLUTION

Compaq reordered the home PC market with its below-$1,000 line in 1997, displacing Packard Bell NEC's Packard Bell as the No. 1 retail PC last June and holding the top spot ever since. Compaq in April accounted for 32.5% of PCs sold by retail stores, according to ZD Market Intelligence.

With the new campaign, Compaq hopes to drive demand for higher-priced -- and more profitable -- PCs, including new Built for You Presarios consumers can order at major retailers.

GENERATING DEMAND

Compaq is introducing the custom-built models to compete with direct marketers Dell Computer Corp. and Gateway.

Ms. Adams said the media plan will remain flexible, allowing media shifts based on what is working.

In a key experiment, the cable TV schedule will include Compaq's first direct-response TV spots, :60s featuring a toll-free number that will refer viewers to local stores.

"We need to take more ownership for generating demand at the consumer level," Ms. Adams said. "It's nice to run warm, fuzzy ads, but at some point, call to action is what gets folks off the couch to do something."

Compaq won't let consumers order a Presario PC over the phone, yet.

"We're getting more and more requests for that," Ms. Adams acknowledged.

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