Ricoh repositions image in $32 mil campaign

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"It's the output, bucko!" barks Dennis Miller, the new spokesman for Ricoh Corp.

The company today launches what it calls its "largest advertising campaign in company history." The $32 million effort begins with print ads and radio spots this week; TV spots are set for May. All reposition the brand from a copier company to the "leader in dependable digital imaging."

Ricoh's longtime New York agency, Gigante Vaz & Partners, is the architect of this marketing assault, which makes use of Mr. Miller's familiar straight-talking, no-bull patter.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

"The next time some expert tries to tell you about the arcane aspects of digital printing technology, why don't you grab him by his Friday casuals and show him the door," Mr. Miller advises in one spot. "It's not about what's inside the printer, it's about what comes out of the printer." Spots, running on network radio, all end with a soulful, funky chorus singing "Ricoh dependable digital."

"[Dennis] Miller has been a spokesman for other products, but this is the first time he is really being himself," said Paul Gigante, founder of the agency. "When he's doing his stand-up about politics and society, he goes after the truth and exposes the false. And that's exactly what he is doing for us."

Mr. Miller this season became a commentator on ABC's "Monday Night Football" and has a long-running show on HBO.

RADIO EFFORT

The seven radio spots star Mr. Miller giving caustic, straight-up counsel to company employees and upper management. "You don't give a rat's rump," says Mr. Miller, about "pyschobabbling" sales people promising "digital bliss."

Mr. Miller's work for the campaign was done under an interim agreement between the agency, Ricoh and the Screen Actors Guild. The production company was McHale Barone, New York.

Print ads are running in Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Robert Ingolia, VP-communications for Ricoh, said the campaign is aimed at midrange corporations and their information technology personnel.

"It's the people who make the copies. The CEOs don't sit there pounding copies or print from their computers. You're talking about the traditional office purchasers, but the new thing is that these people now are computer literate," Mr. Ingolia said, adding Mr. Miller is the right person to communicate with this target. "He's savvy. He's hip, cutting edge. We felt that our competitors, if they weren't showing Greek gods, are pontificating on things that have no relevance to document management. This is about getting down to basics. It's the output, dummy. It's the way it looks."

Mr. Ingolia's Greek god reference was to Ricoh's principal competitor, Xerox Corp., whose most recent campaign is an elaborate flight of TV spots featuring ethereal men and women in robes who come down to earth and minister to "mere mortals" who have copier and printing problems. Y&R Advertising, New York, is Xerox's agency.

"Our customers seeking digital solutions simply want a tangible benefit for choosing Ricoh, which our ads clearly depict," said Jim Ivy, president-Office Products Group of Ricoh, a 64-year-old supplier of office automation equipment. The company reported 1999 sales in excess of $13.8 billion and global net earnings of $400 million last year.

Ricoh is No. 3 in the copier marketplace, with a 4.8% share of the market and 95,150 unit shipments for 1999, according Dataquest, a unit of Gartner Group. No. 1 Canon had 29.9% of the market, with 588,100 units; No. 2 Xerox Corp. had 27.5% of the market, with 541,400 units.

A brochure to dealers about the new Ricoh campaign explains that because the traditional distinction between copy machines and printers is fading, the company wants to reposition itself from a purveyor of "printer-centric products" to being "the leader in dependable digital imaging output." In Dennis Miller-speak: "Digital output is all you care about. Got that, skippy?"

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