Hewlett-Packard Rolls Out First Infomercial

Hewlett Packard Corp., Palo Alto, CA, last month initiated a 10-week nationwide test for its first infomercial, which was produced by The Tyee Group Inc., Portland, OR.

The infomercial demonstrates a software package called Printable Expressions that lets people create their own greeting cards. The testing of the program began Oct. 23, when the product was released, and will run through Dec. 23.

The infomercial offers the Antique Effect Collection and the Holiday Collection of cards. Each collection contains the CD-ROM, which features photos or illustrations, 100 prepared greetings and the ability to personalize greetings. Also included in the kit are 20 blank cards and envelopes in assorted paper styles and textures.

“The idea of an infomercial came up as part of our brand strategy,” said Jill Kramer, brand manager for Hewlett-Packard. “A year ago we were thinking of how HP could be more of a consumer company and the idea of an infomercial came up. At the time, we didn't have a product that was really suitable for being sold through an infomercial and we didn't have any experience in direct selling.”

She added that when the Printable Expressions product came along, company officials agreed that it was the kind of product that would lend itself to long form.

“This is the kind of product that exemplifies what HP wants to be known for, as a consumer company,” Kramer said. “We really feel that this is the kind of product that is showing how HP is not only delivering technology and innovative products, but we are also providing total solutions that allow people to do something they have never done before.”

She said the infomercial puts HP in a different light, and is not just “a stodgy engineering oriented company.” The company is doing brand image research and measuring how well the infomercial is driving retail sales as well. Kramer would not release projected figures of direct sales for the infomercial itself.

The infomercial is a “story-mercial” that follows the bizarre delivery of a card that a woman made for a potential beau. The story opens in the year 2010, when a little girl finds the “magic” card and describes to her friend how her mother made it.

The story then flashes back 10 years earlier, when a woman is sitting at her computer making the card. After she has finished the card, she decides whether to give it to him. The decision is made when the card blows out the window.

The story gets interrupted by a spokeswoman who describes the software package while another spokesperson demonstrates how the software program can make invitations. There are also several testimonials from satisfied users of the sotfware.

“The storymercial brings the usage of customized greeting cards to life,” said Collin Dayley, business development account director at Tyee. “Tyee was the first to pioneer the story-mercial concept, and HP wanted an entertaining, as well as an informative approach.”

The half hour program also includes interviews with Drew Haygeman, the art consultant who selected the artists who would feature their work for printable expressions. Many of the artists did originals strictly for the computer program. The artists themselves were also interviewed.

“Drew Haygeman worked with HP to go out and recruit the artists for the artwork,” said Kramer. “Anything particularly offensive was not used because it was not in HP's brand image. We were really looking for a variety of artwork that would be appropriate for a greeting card and would print well.”

The call to action is to order the antique collection and one other for $49.95, and get the holiday collection with the two sets for $60. There is also an offer free idea booklets. There is a 30-day, money-back guarantee. There is also the opportunity to order a replenishment kit and to purchase additional collections. Tyee is managing media buying for the infomercial.

“Part of the goal was to get this out in time for the holidays,” Dayley said. “HP reviewed quite a few infomercials to validate if this project was worthy for the project.”

The infomercial, which was in production for 12 weeks, is Tyee's second infomercial for a software package this year. The first one, which was rolled out in may of this year, was a software program for Haynes that enabled computer users create their own T-shirt patterns.

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