GATEWAY EXUDES POLITENESS BEFORE NFL'S BIG GAME: 'SWEETNESS' TONE FOR PC SELLER SET BEFORE NEW SHOP COMES ON BOARD

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Gateway 2000 won't be on the Super Bowl. But it will be close-with three new spots breaking on John Madden's show before the game.

The ads were created by Carmichael Lynch, the Minneapolis agency that's also defending the account as Gateway seeks a global agency for its estimated $70 million in advertising.

The campaign sheds some light on what the winning agency-and rival PC makers-should expect from the booming direct marketer of computers. For while Gateway is looking for an agency, it has found its personality: warm, friendly, an 800-number you can trust with a $2,500 purchase.

'GREAT BIG TRUST VARIABLE'

"At the bottom of everything we do lies the great big trust variable," said James Taylor, senior VP-corporate marketing. The spots exude a "gentle humor . . . a built-in politeness" befitting a company based far off in South Dakota with a Holstein cow as its mascot.

In the new spot called "Silicon Cowboy," a real Gateway employee tends a herd of PCs out in a field; the message is Gateway knows how to take care of business. A second spot features a choir of real Gateway employees, replete with dancing cow boxes almost lifted from the prancing packages of '50s TV commercials. A third shows a real Gateway factory that goes silent when an employee forgets to say thank you.

"There's a built-in sweetness" giving customers the confidence "that we're the sort of company they want to do business with," said Mr. Taylor.

Gateway's in-house ad department came up with the ideas for the first two spots and heavily influenced the overall campaign.

The marketer hasn't yet decided how to split responsibilities between the winning agency and the in-house staff, producer of Gateway's voluminous, quirky print advertising. But Mr. Taylor vows there will continue to be a major role for the in-house group.

JWT, TBWA FRONT-RUNNERS

Gateway expects to finish the review in February. Industry watchers give top odds to J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago and New York, and TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif. Others in the hunt include Leo Burnett USA, Chicago; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles; and Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York.

Carmichael Lynch also is pitching, though it doesn't have the global networks of its rivals.

"We hope that there's room in this mix for Carmichael Lynch," Mr. Taylor said. "We haven't settled on the right global resource decisions yet, and it's not impossible" that the incumbent will remain Gateway's main agency.

"The issue that Gateway has is not about Carmichael Lynch's [creative] capabilities," Mr. Taylor added. "We are now a global corporation, and we have made a decision that we want to be a global brand" that speaks with one voice.

How other contenders would work on a collaborative basis with Gateway remains to be seen.

Agencies also must understand Gateway's media priorities.

"Our television reinforces our print, not the other way around," said Mr. Taylor.

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