Mr. T attracts viewers, buyers for Hitachi

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When you think of user-generated videos of Mr. T available for mash-ups, do you think software storage? If not, think again. The famed 1980s action hero has become the voice of the software storage services firm Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

The video campaign with the Mohawk-toting and gold-chain-wearing A-Team star began in January when the firm was looking for a new way to advertise its storage system. Now HDS is taking this campaign further with the release of T3, the third installment of the video campaign, which lets consumers interact with the video through a mash-up feature.

"We have had special requests from people for the ability to make mash ups of the previous videos for their MySpace pages, but this is the first time that this feature will be widely available," said Steven Zivanic, senior director, corporate communications of HDS. "This is the best way to spread the message virally."

The Mr. T video campaign came as a way to break out of the traditional smear campaigns that take place in the data storage space, said Zivanic. So the video campaign was created and posted on consumer video sites including YouTube and Yahoo videos. According to Zivanic, this campaign has not only helped the firm in its own area, but it has given the data storage firm a broader audience. To date, the first version, "Mr. T: The T in IT," has been viewed 148,185 on YouTube alone.

"It helped us attract a newer generation of companies that weren't aware of us before," remarked Zivanic. "When you have a campaign that is popular in your segment of the industry then that is PR, because it is reaching the intended audience, but when you have something that reaches a bigger audience, then that is publicity. Publicity is when you transcend your industry into multiple audiences and sectors."

Despite the bigger audience, the video contains no brand logo. The only identifiable brand features in the video are when Mr. T says the name Hitachi twice.

Still, the campaign has increased sales, according to Zivanic. Though he would not give specific numbers he did say that sales have increased over the last year.

The commercial was directed by James Marlow, a film director best known for his film "Graves End." The commercial features droned office zombies who, until saved by Mr. T, listen to a "pea-brained" consultant who gives bad advice on data storage. Mr. T says that virtualization belongs to the controller and not the network, Hitachi's slogan, and saves the day.

"We wanted to go with something that was entertaining like a movie, not like a typical corporate video, so we chose a director who had actually made a film," Zivanic added.

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