Gateway Returns to Mass Marketing

New Brand-Building Effort Also Includes a Roving Focus Group

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NEW YORK ( -- Gateway is returning to mass marketing after years of decreased spending and a focus on direct marketing alone. With its "Ask, Listen and Deliver" campaign launching today, the No. 3 seller of PCs in the U.S. behind Dell and Hewlett Packard is ramping up its ad presence in attempt to appeal to consumers as they start their holiday purchasing.
Gateway's road show includes six Chevrolet Suburbans from which the company is conducting real-time focus group research.
Gateway's road show includes six Chevrolet Suburbans from which the company is conducting real-time focus group research.

The road show
Gateway personnel have already hit the road in six Chevrolet Suburbans painted with the company's iconic cow-spots to speak with consumers to find out what it is they want out of their PCs. The "road show," as Gateway refers to its roving interviewers, is the basis for a real-time focus-group campaign born out of research done by Gateway's strategy and research agency of four years, OBI Industries.

Each interview is recorded digitally in black and white for a documentary-like feeling and uploaded onto a microsite,, which launches today. With each interview upload, the website will not only track the percentage of people who want specific options for their computers, but the company also will measure how many "asks" they are able to deliver.

The campaign marks OBI's first creative push for the PC maker. While some might think the reality-show approach is a low-rent way to do consumer research and advertise, Mary Ann O'Brien, OBI's CEO, said it was in keeping with the folksy marketing approach Gateway was traditionally known for. "We came up with this campaign that's not really earth shattering, it's more common-sensical. ... Rather than guess what consumers want, why don't we just ask them? Why don't we listen and deliver what we can?"

Period of change
Gateway has been going through a period of change over the last few years in which the CEO title changed hands three times; in September, Ed Coleman stepped into the position. In the meantime, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, resigned as the company's creative agency and Gateway focused on direct response with the Woo Agency, Culver City, Calif. In October, the PC marketer returned its media account to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative after a three-year sojourn with Aegis' Carat.

Since 2003, when Gateway spent roughly $205 million across all media, the company has dialed down spending to nearly one-quarter of that, $53 million in 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence. While the company would not quantify how much this new advertising push could amount to, Bart Brown, Gateway's senior VP–marketing, said via e-mail: "This is a multimillion-dollar campaign, which also represents Gateway's most significant integrated marketing campaign in the last three years."

Mr. Brown went on to explain the timing. "Gateway had undertaken some significant cost-cutting measures over the last few of years in order to get the business healthy and reduce our [sales, general and administrative costs]. Now that we've completed much of that work, the timing was right to reinvest in the Gateway brand, which is one of our greatest assets. Although the campaign incorporates some demand generation elements for the holiday buying season, it is ultimately a long-term campaign designed to build the Gateway brand, increase consideration and drive long-term sales."

Master brand strategy
"The foundation of the campaign," Ms. O'Brien said, "is built-in research and reconnecting and getting a dialogue back with customers. While we have 96% aided brand awareness, our unaided [brand awareness] is slipping. We've been a little bit inconsistent in what we've been saying, and we need to get a master brand strategy in place."

Gateway will return to print with a four-page spread in PC Magazine, on stands this week. It has also already launched work on DRTV and begun TV brand advertising.
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