Hewlett-Packard pulled a few creative marketing strings on a ride to the top alongside DreamWorks Animation, launching a recent advertising campaign promoting its involvement in making movies. The movie studio created "Kung Fu Panda" on more than 400 HP Workstations.
DreamWorks' movie distributed by Viacom's Paramount Pictures opened Friday bigger than expected, getting rave reviews for its "visual splendor." The movie drew an estimated $60 million in ticket sales domestically to debut as the weekend's No. 1 movie. Jack Black plays Po the panda, who tries to master martial arts to save his friend from danger.
In tying the HP brand to the performance of a film, the marketing strategy sends a message that "DreamWorks uses our stuff to make hit movies," says Robin Rowe, motion picture industry expert based in Los Angeles. "HP used the same marketing strategy with the movie 'Shrek'," he says, adding that DreamWorks animators use more than 400 desktops and 6,000 CPU, about 3,000 boxes, to render the movies.
HP shelled out $25.5 million between January and March for advertising, excluding online, estimates Nielsen Monitor-Plus. This compares with $239.4 million and $207.9 million in 2006 and 2007, respectively, according to the research firm.
The movie may appeal to kids, but the HP Workstation division targets print ads toward the parents who will likely accompany their children to the theater. The ads tell the story of the transformation from film concept into feature movie. "Everyone has a movie hero inside who wants to enjoy Hollywood, even if you have a very data-intensive job," says Kerry Chrapliwy, senior manager of HP Personal Systems Group global initiatives, who calls the HP story "glamorous" because of the brilliant and vivid animation DreamWorks animators create.
Aside from DreamWorks, Nickelodeon and McDonald's got involved, bringing "Kung Fu Panda" to life outside the movie theater and into HP's "The Computer Is Personal Again" TV commercial. In the 30-second spot, Po creates a personal mini-movie with his computer. A Web site launched by HP allows consumers to do the same.
The "Panda Monium" HP Web site provides entrance into the Activity Center, offering free printable cards and games. Kids can get instructions on "The Panda" dance, and make their own movie using mini clips.
Clicking on the "Panda-ize your PC" clip brings up a pre-roll Intel spot with recognizable jingle and plug for Intel's Core 2 Duo, which seems a bit out of place because, in 2005, DreamWorks enabled HP's first non-Intel workstation running on the Linux open source operating system. Intel chips were not used to create "Kung Fu Panda," but rather HP xw9400 workstations powered by AMD 64-bit Multi-Core Opteron processors.
Best Buy and Circuit City are promoting the movie and HP products, too. The retail stores distribute the HP/Kung Fu Panda Activity CD as a gift with purchase through June. Every store received a quantity of 500 disks, about 1 million in total. The retail stores plan to advertise the promotion in the Sunday newspaper circulars through the end of the month.
On the academic side, Scholastic will distribute 100,000 educational kits to teachers across the United States and Canada. The kits offer activities to help children learn about Asian culture, a "The Panda" dance how-to video choreographed by Hihat, and special "Kung Fu Panda" ringtones and screensavers.
Through a marketing partnership with McDonald's, HP got space on restaurant tray liners to promote the HP/Kung Fu Panda site at hp.com/kungfupanda. The campaign also includes search marketing at sites like Google and Yahoo.