HP Targets Dell with Ad Campaign Showcasing VARs

By John Hazard  |  Print this article Print


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Hewlett-Packard sets its sights on customers ordering direct from Dell with an advertising campaign that promotes the added value of buying through a VAR.

Hewlett-Packard put Dell customers in its sights this month with a two-tier advertising campaign designed to promote the value that those buying directly from a vendor could gain by switching to a VAR for products and services.

National ads proclaiming, "What could be more direct than face to face?" and "Meet your friendly neighborhood technology partner" began running nationally Jan. 16 with a full-page spread in the Wall Street Journal. In February HP will begin promoting specific partners and solutions to a general audience in 21 markets, part of a pilot to measure the strategy's success.

The program is designed to steal market share from competitors selling directly to customers that might prefer more attention than a call center can offer, said Tom LaRocca, HP's vice president of partner development and programs. HP would not declare Dell the only target of the campaign, but a partner familiar with the program said it is clear that Dell is the target.

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With phrases like, "What if you need more than a box?" and "We recommend a local … familiar with your area and line of work," the advertisements, which resemble HP's "The computer is personal again" campaign, make an argument that SMBs (small and midsize businesses) gain value when they buy from a VAR partner, something Dell doesn't have, or at least won't acknowledge, HP and partners said.

"We already have a retail presence, and we already sell direct, if that's what customers want," LaRocca said. "This is designed for the customer buying from a competitor who would like more than just a way to procure product. We have something more to offer them in the form of our channel partners."

While the national campaign provides the air cover of awareness, the local campaigns will be specific to partners, advertising to a mass audience that a "partner understands mobility solutions or workstation dynamics or is a great partner for you to be calling on for small business needs. … I don't think anyone has ever done this before," LaRocca said.

The local campaigns will also include HP catalogs mailed to SMBs under the banner and branding of local VARs.

In addition, the campaign includes a new SMB Web site and partner locator.

While Dell does not acknowledge operating a channel, a May report by Channel Insider found many VARs are selling Dell, some calling it a better partner than HP, and figures from analysts that estimate about 20 percent of Dell's revenue is coming from channel sales.

Insiders say Dell may never acknowledge a relationship with the channel because the perception that the company owns the entire margin makes it more attractive to investors.


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