Early in 1983, I was hired by Della Femina Travisano & Partners of California to run a new account: Kaypro.
This small company made a portable (luggable) computer in a metal case. The computer was 8080-based, and came complete with disk drive and monitor built-in. It even came with a large bundle of software, a rarity in 1983.
The company was amazingly unsophisticated, having reached a successful sales rate on the coat-tails of the Osborne (remember that contraption?) portable. The Kaypro was a blatant rip-off of the Osborne concept with a bigger screen and the dubious advantage that you could actually stand on its metal case.
Kaypro's management had decided that it wanted a serious advertising campaign.
I was hired because of my high tech background, but almost immediately ran into resistance from the creative director, who wanted to do a comedic commercial parodying the computer-buying experience. If you think back to 1983, there were only two serious contenders in the personal computer market: IBM and Apple. Each was advertising the cpu alone at about $1,200, but several thousand dollars more had to be spent to actually use the things. Most people were uncomfortable with the idea of using a personal computer, especially since it involved learning an operating system and memorizing arcane keyboard commands.
People tended to go with a recognized name when buying products in an unfamiliar category. I wanted the commercials to be memorable, and sell the notion of a complete system, but I wanted to do it in a way that wouldn't reinforce the FUD (fear/uncertainty/doubt) that already existed in the mind of the consumer.
Unfortunately, I gave in to the pressure and we produced a very funny commercial with Joe Sedelmaier. It pictured a Kafka-esque world where a confused fellow comes into a computer store to buy a $1,200 computer, and is told that it is $5,300. He then asks about the $1,400 computer and is told that it is $3,800, etc. The commercial was a big hit, within the advertising community, and won a Clio, the ad industry's version of the Academy Award.
But in the real world, this commercial was a disaster.
With only a $3.75 million budget, Kaypro could afford to air commercials in just eight major markets. After 6 weeks of placement, Kaypro's share of sales in those cities fell a few percentage points.
For computer and education-oriented magazines, we produced an ad positioning our computer against the others, which were often used for game-playing.
Fortunately, we produced magazine ads that were as successful as the TV was unsuccessful. For business and general-interest magazines, we produced this ad:
In markets where the TV campaign didn't run, but the magazine ad did, market share went up nearly 16%.
The lesson was a valuable one. Even brilliant TV commercials can work against you, if the underlying strategy is wrong.
Kelley Advertising & Marketing