Best & Brightest Special Report: Fischer helps make Agilent's dreams come true

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Trying to coax Francis Fischer into detailing the strategy behind last year's successful launch of Agilent Technologies, the much talked about spin-off of Hewlett-Packard Co., is like trying to convince someone to reveal his most precious secrets. The extremely modest Fischer, who oversees Agilent's $100 million-plus account, simply refuses to view what he's created for his clients as anything extraordinary or worthy of attention.

"I'm just doing my job," Fischer said. "I have been very fortunate to work on good accounts with good people."

Following seven years of b-to-b media experience, Fischer arrived at McCann-Erickson, New York, in 1994 as media supervisor on the AT&T account, which led to working on the launch of Lucent Technologies. With that success, he admits it was natural to be part of the team assigned to pitch what was then called "NewCo," the working term for the spin-off of HP's six testing, measurement and medical equipment divisions.

Agilent's $100 million introductory campaign, "Dreams made real," broke in August 1999 with the single-minded goal of raising awareness for the brand.

"What makes this a challenge is that Agilent does components as well as the equipment itself," he said. "It's the chip inside your cell phone that tells your cell phone how strong a signal it has. Agilent is a lot like Intel, in that you want people to think of choosing equipment with Agilent components inside."

Agilent spots, which were timed to break during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, also appeared on top prime time TV shows. For print, Agilent "broke ad history," Fischer said, buying all six color positions in The Wall Street Journal on the tournament's first day to announce the company's name. "It was something that had never been done before," he said.

Agilent also ran similar units in more than 40 magazines, plus an online campaign through McCann sister agency Zentropy. The company was very receptive to such radical strategies, Fischer said. "This was a brave new world for them ... Some clients might have been a little less open to the ideas we had."

Late last month, the $9 billion company began to roll out the second phase of its campaign. "Now that everyone knows who we are," he said, "it's time to put a face to the name, explain just what this company is all about."

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