PACKARD BELL REDIRECTS ADS TO STRESS SERVICE, QUALITY: PC MARKETER'S $15 MIL FALL EFFORT TARGETS MESSAGE TOWARD FAMILIES

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Packard Bell's estimated $12 million to $15 million fall TV effort is a radical departure from the dark, controversial campaign the home-PC seller ran a year ago for its TV debut.

Two 30-second spots launched last week are straightforward and take on two issues where the Packard Bell NEC division has invested heavily to repair past problems: customer service and quality.

BABY AND COMPUTER

In one spot, a mother with a crying baby and balky computer calls Packard Bell; the friendly phone service rep gets the baby to stop crying, and the baby then hits a key that starts the PC.

In a second spot, a cranky, creaky uncle beats a PC with his cane till his young nephew comes to his aid. "At Packard Bell," voice-over says, "we torture test every computer we make so they pass the toughest test of all: home."

Mike Gold, senior VP-advertising and corporate communications, said Packard Bell wants to change perceptions on the two points where it's faced the most criticism.

"These aren't award winners," Mr. Gold said. "These are very hard-working" commercials targeting families.

Mr. Gold said Packard Bell has spent $100 million upgrading its customer service and support, and he also argues that its quality and reliability have improved.

NEW TAGLINE

The spots introduce a new tag Mr. Gold hopes to keep in coming years: "Packard Bell, the computer the world comes home to."

Packard Bell is relying on retailer co-op ads and stores to talk about price, value and features. But Mr. Gold said Packard Bell may later this fall run tactical print ads with more detail to back up its customer-service improvements.

HEAVY ON CABLE

The fall campaign was created by M&C Saatchi, New York, and placed by Western International Media Corp., West Hollywood, Calif. Spending will be similar to last year. The TV buy will be heavily weighted to 14 cable channels, vs. last year's broadcast TV focus.

The TV spots are a radical departure from M&C Saatchi's 1996 effort that launched Packard Bell's branding campaign. That controversial TV campaign opened with bleak, cold b&w images about technology and a society that had failed-switching to the bright glow of a Technicolor home with a Packard Bell PC.

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