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DIGITAL TURNS TO CUSTOMERS FOR NEW ADS;$40 MIL EFFORT USES TESTIMONIALS AND LINKS TO TECH PARTNERS

By Published on .

Digital Equipment Corp. is letting customers sell its brand and products in a new global campaign breaking Dec. 8.

The campaign, the third in two years from DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, makes testimonials the focus of Digital's new TV brand spots. Product-specific ads for servers and computer services will play up testimonials and Digital's partnerships with other tech suppliers, such as Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and MCI Communications Corp.

"The thread for all three campaigns is an insistence that Digital gets credit for really being at the heart" of many key technologies, said Giff Crosby, group creative director at the agency.

UP TO $40 MIL

Digital will spend an estimated $30 million to $40 million on the campaign, running through June.

This will be the first time Digital has used a similar theme across corporate and most product ads, according to Jeffrey Brooks, VP-global and brand marketing communications. The key exception: Digital's PC operation continues to go its own way in ads from Young & Rubicam.

Two fast-paced, straight-talking b&w brand spots feature the voices of important customers talking about technology and how Digital fits in.

One of the :30s showcases Jeff Bezos, founder of amazon.com, the booming Internet bookstore, explaining how computers are critical to his venture.

Says Mr. Bezos in the spot, it's "crucial to work with a computer company that has experience helping people do business on the Net-not to mention the world's fastest servers." His bookstore is literally housed in Digital servers.

The second spot features Thomas Ryan, president of the American Stock Exchange.

Spots close with Digital's "Whatever it takes" tag and Web site address (http://www.digital.com).

RADIO IN THE MIX

TV starts Dec. 8 in the U.S., running on sports and news on network and cable in three flights through June. Similar radio spots will run in tandem with TV.

TV will move in January into overseas markets including Germany, Japan and the U.K.

Print ads for servers start in business and computer publications in January in the U.S., across Europe and in Asia/Pacific. Print ads for services will begin later in the first half.

TRYING TO GET BACK ON TRACK

The campaign opens as Digital tries to get earnings back on track. Its highly touted turnaround was called into question when a $492 million restructuring charge was announced earlier this year, resulting in a loss of $112 million for fiscal `96, ended June 29, followed by another loss, on shrinking revenues, in the quarter ended Sept. 28.

Digital Chairman Robert Palmer has insisted the turnaround is still on track, and Mr. Brooks sees no need to shift ad strategies.

"While Digital has had setbacks, we've made a great deal of progress," he said. "Even in difficult times, it's important not to lose sight of your strengths" as a major technology supplier.

Mr. Brooks voiced no concerns about Digital's taking different creative approaches in its ads from DDB Needham and from PC agency Y&R. The agencies both are focusing on "customer solutions," he said.

BOTH AGENCIES `EFFECTIVE'

Asked whether Digital will consolidate the two accounts at one agency, Mr. Brooks said: "Quite frankly, that has not been on our radar screen . . . We have felt that the work Y&R has done both strategically and executionally has fit very well . . . Both agencies have proved to work very effectively on behalf of Digital."

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