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DATA GENERAL'S NEW LOOK HIGH-TECH MARKETER MIXES HUMOR WITH COMMON SENSE

By Published on .

Data General Corp. has eliminated nearly two-thirds of its work force in the past decade, is still losing money and is easy to overlook next to giant competitors like IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

But the one-time minicomputer marketer has re-emerged with a well-acclaimed line of computer servers and storage products, and is counting on a corporate campaign to raise its image and sales.

Data General recently began an estimated $10 million worldwide image campaign airing globally on CNN and other cable outlets, and running in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the Financial Times, Computerworld and other major business and computer-management titles. Spot and network radio in the U.S. will support.

The Westboro, Mass.-based marketer also is making an interactive push, offering product information via the Internet and faxes on demand. It will include an Internet address in print ads.

Computer managers are part of the target, but Data General also is courting senior corporate executives who vote on big computer purchases and may know little about Data General, said Jim Murphy, director of corporate communications.

Big computers tend to be a "committee sale," Mr. Murphy said. "Being known by [top executives] ... who aren't necessarily technologically involved is important."

The effort introduces a new tagline, "Bringing common sense to computing."

Data General, which once sold only home-grown, or proprietary, technology, now pitches products compatible with industry standards. That shift kept Data General in the game, but it also means the company must stand out in a sea of commodity products.

So ads portray Data General as the source of common sense about a confusing market.

Three 30-second TV spots use humor to get that point across. In "The Helicopter," a man uses a bit too much hardware-actually, a helicopter-to trim a hedge. A second man picks the right tool-hand clippers-to create a beautiful topiary that spells out Data General.

The campaign is the first from Pagano, Schenck & Kay, Boston, which succeeded Lois USA, New York, in April.

For the nine months ended June 25, Data General posted a loss of $81.4 million, including a restructuring charge of $35 million, on revenues of $827.9 million.

The marketer's last profitable year was 1991, though some analysts expect the marketer to move back into the black in 1995.

The company now employs about 6,000 people, down from a peak of more than 17,000 in 1985.

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