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CAMPAIGN NEWS: HP takes workstations to infinity and beyond with superhero brand mascot

Technology heavyweight HP is embarking on an ambitious campaign to win over the digital creative market to its Z-series workstations, challenging the dominant position of Apple in this sector.

The computer giant began the official roll-out of the Z-series in the UK in June with an integrated marketing campaign that combines traditional and new media.

The main thrust for the campaign began with Mr Z, a 3D animated character that will see selected design agencies across the country collaborating to create a short film, using HP workstations offered as a free trial. This interactive and experiential element to the campaign is intended to get creative professionals in the graphic arts, broadcast and architecture sectors talking about the Z-series, by means of word-of-mouth marketing in social and digital media.

Giving the campaign a face

The campaign – called 'A day in the life of Mr Z'– was devised by Porter Novelli with McCann Erickson handling the creative. The campaign is aimed at promoting three key attributes of the Z-series range: power, performance and reliability. Superhero mascot Mr Z was intended to embody these characteristics and communicate them to the creative community.

The idea for the campaign followed research by HP's PR agency Porter Novelli in April 2009. The research was aimed at understanding the creative community and developing ideas for engaging with it.

According to Jessica Rowntree, associate director of Porter Novelli, the study used online mapping software to determine the biggest influencers within agencies and to select the creative people that would be most appropriate to target through this campaign. The research highlighted the interactive behaviour of the audience and demonstrated that it is a close-knit community enjoying strong peer support and participating in conversations online.

“Many were also entrenched with the same [computer] brands, therefore we wanted to address these issues by getting the guys to use the product and talk about it in an incredible and creative way,” says Rowntree.

Co-creating content

The campaign utilises these findings, with the aim of leveraging social media channels to develop interest in the product through word-of-mouth marketing. The main influencers in 12 specially selected creative agencies were approached with a unique film competition that will see an HP Z-series workstation as the main prize.

“[The influencers] get to borrow a workstation and use its basic animation tool to create a story,” enthuses Rowntree. The clips will be edited together to develop a lengthy film that will be screened at the British Film Institute in August. It will also be available on YouTube.

To get the word-of-mouth going on the campaign, each of the agencies will have a blog on their own websites and blogsites to share information on their experiences of the workstation.

The blogs will also appear on the Mr Z website ( HP will continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Something old, something new

HP sought an additional element to its traditional promotions, which comprised mainly of product reviews to the design and technology press, to DCC agencies.

The PR launch for the new range began at the end of March in technology and design press and appeared in Develop 3D, Creative Review and 3D World.

Jane Zeal, head of marketing and strategy at HP PSG, explains the company wanted a campaign that would be more mainstream and that would demonstrate the computer's design and interface. “We also wanted to move from the traditional approach to engage with users and to capture their imagination.”

HP has already proven credentials for the Z-series. The workstations were used for the first time ever in Dreamworks' latest animated offering, 'Monsters vs Aliens', which adopted its new generation of 3D film-making to engage cinema-goers.