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For years now solution providers have been prodding vendors to do something more meaningful in the way of advertising beyond just creating branding campaigns or offers around specific products.

For all intents and purposes, branding campaigns are vendor chest-thumping exercises that generally fail to promote any new commercial activity, while product advertising tends to emphasize price to the detriment of margins.

Pointer Click here to read more about HP’s plan to drive SMB demand by advertising its VARs.

So it was a little more than refreshing to see Hewlett-Packard take the lead among vendors on Jan. 16 by coming out with an advertising campaign targeted at small and midsize businesses that promotes the value of the relationship that HP provides through its channel partners. Aimed squarely at Dell’s widely reported service issues, the ads are part of what HP describes as a pilot that will ultimately include specific ads around about two dozen HP partners in different regions of the country.

It’s a little unclear how HP went about selecting the partners it chose for this campaign and the company has not made any commitments to maintaining the effort. And while a few random ads in the Wall Street Journal are nice, this needs to be a lot more than just HP thumbing its nose at Dell to be truly worthwhile. That means it needs to be followed up with face-to-face events, Web seminars and other opportunities where HP leverages its media resources to not only promote the brand of its solution provider partners but drive some actual business to those partners.

After all, the core purpose of marketing is to drive down the cost of sales, and that means that effective lead generation needs to be a core part of any advertising campaign in order to justify the overall time and expense put into developing the campaign. So while HP is to be applauded for taking these first steps after years of prodding, it definitely needs to develop a deeper overall plan beyond this initial pilot project.

In the meantime, other vendors would do well to take note of what HP is doing here.

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In the future, solution providers will be judging vendors by what they do to help them drive actual business as opposed to today’s model where vendors demand that solution providers drive business to them in exchange for the privilege of having their permission to sell their products. The lead- and demand-generation models in the channel are in the process of going through a major transformation, and this ad campaign from HP is only the beginning of a new marketing dynamic in the channel.

Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at