Market Focus: Computer Makers

One would think computer companies might buck the trend and maintain high online ad spending, since they are the gateway to the online world. But “the spending levels for most manufacturers are down,” says Michael Kubin, co-CEO of Evaliant Media Resources (formerly Leading Web Advertisers). “Acer is down a huge amount and Gateway and IBM could be down by half,” he says. The other big spenders have been flat, with Compaq up a little, he notes.

Evaliant data reveals Dell was the leading spender last year at $11.1 million. Through May of this year the company spent about $4 million, meaning it might spend $9 million by the end of the year, a $2 million drop. Compaq spent $8.2 million last year and $4.3 million through May 2001. Gateway spent $8.1 million last year but only $2.3 million through May, the biggest drop among the leading spenders.

Apple has spent only $1.4 million so far this year, prompting Bev Andel, Evaliant’s president, to say, “It’s surprising for a company as large and creative as Apple. I would have expected to see more activity there.”

Of course, there’s still plenty of online activity among the computer companies. Perhaps the most interesting development is a CPA campaign Gateway is running, through 360i.com, its Atlanta interactive agency. “Lots of advertisers are focusing on insuring acquisitions, so we worked on a CPA basis for Gateway,” says 360i’s president David Williams. By May, 30 million impressions on a variety of sites had been bought, with over 100,000 click-throughs. “We went to business-oriented and tech-savvy sites,” Williams says, although he declined to name them. Evaliant says Gateway has used sites like FamilyEducation.com, PCBusiness.com, and Computers.com, although not necessarily for the CPA deal.

The 360i campaign included offer-driven and branding ads, with a variety of formats used, including Skyscrapers and email newsletters, Williams says.

It isn’t easy finding sites for CPA deals, because publishers don’t like them. But Williams says “blue-chip sites gave us prime inventory. They want the income from a CPM, but they’d rather have Gateway as an advertiser.” He notes the CPA deal is only one of Gateway’s online campaigns. Evaliant says other campaigns include buttons, banners, Skyscrapers, and half-banners on a number of sites.

Compaq’s spending is up slightly because online advertising “is an integral part of the marketing mix,” according to Mary Bermel, director of interactive communications. She says the company “runs the gamut, from banners to very involving rich media, depending on the placement.” She says the company has used many of the new IAB standard ad sizes, such as Skyscrapers, as well as the CNET Messaging Plus unit. Flash has been the main rich-media format, but “we’re exploring other kinds as well.”

She says the strategy for selecting sites is twofold, based on content alignment and demographic profiling. Foote, Cone & Belding is the company’s agency, which handles creative and media buying chores. Evaliant says Compaq has used buttons, banners, and half-banners on sites including Onsale.com, Quicken.com, Motley Fool, and Buy.com.

Hewlett-Packard uses its online advertising to reach businesses as opposed to consumers, according to Julia Mee, worldwide brand manager. The company conducts branding and direct-response campaigns. It has created some memorable and award-winning rich media in an effort to communicate its inventiveness. In one ad, users can drag and drop notes to create their own music while the HP logo remains on the screen. “They’re staring at the logo while doing something very inventive, appreciating their intelligence and desire to have an online experience,” Mee says. Java and Flash were used in the campaign that ran on about 20 sites including Shockwave, CNN.com, and Global Music Network. The campaign began last year and isn’t running in the U.S. now but will pick up again in November.

The company uses Freestyle, an interactive agency, which works with the company’s main agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, which handles the media buy. Evaliant says HP ran buttons, banners, half-banners, and Skyscrapers on sites including Onsale.com, Ubid.com, Business.com, and Inc.com.

IBM also reaches out to a business audience with ads on 600 sites, according to John Bukovinsky, a spokesman. “We emphasize news and search-engine sites,” he says. The company’s rich-media ads use customer testimonials and offer white papers in an effort to generate sales leads. The company is more internationally oriented than the others, advertising in 40 countries in 20 languages. Evaliant says the company used buttons, banners, half banners and Skyscrapers on sites including Onsale.com and Forbes.com.

Dell places ads on large sites like AOL, Yahoo, ZDNet, MSN, and CNET, according to Bob Kaufman, a spokesman. He notes the company also uses affiliates, such as Ebate.com, who link users to Dell microsites. The affiliates earn commissions for each sale in a pay for performance deal Kaufman says is “consistent with our model of doing business.” Evaliant says Dell ran banners, half-banners, buttons, and Skyscrapers on CNET, ZDnet, Download.com and PlanetIT.