Shaun White Turns Teacher

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With the Olympics almost upon us, HP and McCann Worldgroup couldn't have picked a better time to bring back brand spokesman and former gold medalist Shaun White for a new "Computer is Personal Again" campaign. While Goodby handled the broadcast portion with a new HP spot starring White, McCann has taken the digital reins with video banners and a site featuring the snowboarding/skateboarding star called "Crash Course."

The destination doesn't focus on the Beijing games, though. Instead, it highlights HP products as well as another important, timely event: going back to school. On the site, White and a supporting cast give amusing life lessons aimed at high school juniors and seniors through film shorts and image galleries. "Two years ago, when Goodby launched HP's 'Computer is Personal Again' campaign, Shaun was either the first or second 'achiever' [featured] along with Jay-Z," says McCann GCD/copywriter Brad Cohn. "From the demand generation point-of-view and the consumer side of the business, holidays and back-to-school are HP's two biggest selling seasons. So, we were actually fortunate enough to [renew] Shaun's contract and leverage him from a marketing funnel perspective. Out of all the achievers HP ran, he seemed the closest to relating 'good' with the back-to-school audience."

Each of the 17 short films, which were directed by Jason Farrand of production company Different Beast, feature White and friends offering several unique takes on achievement. According to Cohn, the overall concept of the video executions was loosely inspired by a particular HBO show. "We came up with this idea to use Shaun in an Entourage-type [setting]. We cast a group of friends that he could engage with and we shot a behind-the-scenes look at what he does when he's not competing. It's how technology, to some degree, fits organically into his life. We didn't want to make it heavy-handed; we wanted it to just feel natural. You show him using the technology and then giving funny tips as to how it relates to the [target] market. We thought we'd bring that market in and engage them with those films. And then, they'd have to option to take a deeper dive into the product section and choose an HP product."

The videos were shot in just two, 10-hour days during mid-June in a downtown L.A. loft space. The venue's spacious quarters provided the ideal setting for the creative team, who claim the biggest challenge was "finding a location suitable for the number of set-ups needed to shoot the films, as well as incorporating a place to build the skate ramp [for Shaun]." Along with the props, White's "friends" were actually hired actors, Cohn says. "A lot of the actors were improv guys. They were really, really good with doing a lot of ad-libbing. By doing this organically, we had stories and plot scenes but we didn't have any scripts. Shaun was really good working with those guys within that situation. With the films, there really is a theme if you do tie them all together but they do all stand alone in and of themselves."

As McCann initially intended, there does seem to be a natural, easygoing dynamic in the films between the cast and White, who Cohn says is the perfect pitchman as he evolves from a renowned athlete into a brand himself. "He's got a cool, hip edge. The X Games just happened and Shaun won a bronze. He's also just rolling out a line of clothing at Target, getting into music and trying to start a band, and he's coming out with a video game pretty soon. Also, being a gold medalist, he really is an achiever. At a very young age, he's done a lot so what better guy? Plus, he also has a history with HP so we wanted to really utilize him and do a full-blown web engagement."

Along with the White films, the dedicated HP site includes a weekly original web series produced by HP and Broadband Enterprises called "Dorm Storm," a dorm makeover show that will roll out through August 25th. "[Shaun White and Dorm Storm] are unrelated and integrated all at the same time," Cohn explains. "Dorm Storm is a different way to reach the entry-level college to in-college market, and because Shaun does some pre-roll video [for it] and is featured in the last episode, that's how we tied everything together."
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