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HP Brand Chief Calls Corporate Spies 'Inexcusable'

Gary Elliott Tells ANA Meeting the Extent of Damage Is Still Unknown

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ORLANDO, FL (Adage.com) -- Hewlett-Packard Co.'s VP-brand marketing, Gary Elliott, bluntly addressed HP's corporate spy scandal today, acknowledging HP still doesn't know how the issue will affect its brand.
In an unscripted two-minute preamble to a formal presentation on HP's impressive and effective brand marketing reinvention, Mr. Elliott said HP is enjoying its first "HP free day," with the scandal nowhere to be seen on CNN or the front pages of newspapers.

'We're doing fine'
Speaking at the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference, Mr. Elliott labeled "the actions of a few" as "really inexcusable" but said "the company is in great shape, we're doing fine."

Asked in an audience Q&A what HP will be doing as a brand to counteract the recent negative publicity, Mr. Elliott said: "Umm, the correct answer from me would be I don't know yet."

HP, he said, hopes to determine if and how the spy issue is affecting the brand short or long term as part of its ongoing worldwide market research across 26 attributes. Mr. Elliott noted the controversy relates to the corporation and is not directly a product issue.

Under investigation
The controversy involves spying undertaken by HP of board members, employees and media to determine who had been leaking information to journalists. HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn resigned over the matter. Ms. Dunn, a former HP ethics executive and three outside investigators all are facing felony charges.

HP may not get another free day for awhile. Mr. Elliott noted former HP CEO Carly Fiorina will be on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday to pitch her new tell-all book. "That's going to add a little bit of interest and intrigue," Mr. Elliott said.

Consumer marketing working
He did, it should be noted, also present an impressive summary of some of the inventive tools HP has used to turn the company from an engineering-lead behemoth to a seemingly more nimble marketing- and design-driven operation that seems hell bent on playing a key cultural role in communities all over the world.

They included the Hype campaign, in which consumers submitted thousands of art works to an H-P gallery -- both phyiscal and virtual -- as well as H-P's work to restore the photos of Katrina victims whose family albums were ruined by floodwater.

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