As the Christmas shopping season heats up, Palm Inc. intends to position itself as the principal provider of operating systems for handheld devices, rather than as just the supplier of the hardware.
The Santa Clara, Calif., company Thursday will unveil an ambitious $100 million advertising campaign that will span television, radio, national magazines, newspapers and the Internet. Palm (palm) plans to showcase the thousands of software applications that can run on a handheld computer — from golfing programs to blood-measurement applications to a GPS mapping system — all of which rely on Palm’s operating system.
Many of the ads, developed by San Francisco agency Citron Haligman Bedecarre, won’t even show the Palm machines but instead will display only the device’s screen pictured against soaring landscapes and smiling faces.
“We’re repositioning ourselves as the leading mobile platform provider,” said Satjiv Chahil, Palm’s chief marketing officer. “If you can dream it, you can do it on a Palm. Our new advertising mission is to communicate this message across all the forms of old media and new media.”
Palm’s new ads emphasize the company’s role as a provider of operating systems rather than a manufacturer of handheld devices.
During the past few years, Palm has come to be known as the chief provider of the hardware of handheld organizers. But in the past 18 months, numerous competitors have jumped into the emerging handheld industry, chipping away at Palm’s market share for device sales.
Earlier this year, for instance, Microsoft Corp. unveiled the newest version of its Pocket PC gadgets, which rely on the Redmond, Wash., company’s Windows CE operating system. Other companies, such as Handspring Inc. and Sony Corp., which have signed agreements to license the Palm operating system, also launched new handheld gadgets this year.
Rivals are skeptical that Palm can position itself as an operating-system company.
“The question is, when will Palm develop a real operating system?” said Phil Holden, marketing director of mobile devices for Microsoft (msft) who said the Palm platform isn’t robust enough to support multimedia and other expanded capabilities.
“When you talk about being an operating system company, you’ve got to produce something that can run on a range of devices, not just on a handheld computer.”
In response, Palm executives say they are working on updated versions of the Palm operating system, adding that the platform already is powerful enough to support thousands of applications.
Although device sales generate about 90% of Palm’s revenue, company executives say they expect fees from licensing the Palm operating system to become a heftier proportion of revenue during the next few years.
Palm’s new ads, which bear the new tagline of “Simply Amazing” in addition to the old tagline of “Simply Palm,” will begin appearing in national newspapers the same day Palm’s annual shareholder meeting is held. Each of the new print ads will focus on a different software application. In one ad that spotlights a weather-forecasting software program, a woman is pictured smiling serenely in the rain. A screen floats to her left, with text that reads “Forecast: rainy. Outlook: sunny.”
In another ad focusing on a Palm-based application that keeps track of an individual’s stock and bond portfolio, a man is pictured relaxing in a car with his feet up. On the floating screen, the text reads, “Bonds up. Stocks up. Blood pressure down.”
“Most tech brands are to some extent off-putting,” said Kirk Citron, chief strategic officer of the ad agency that created the campaign. “But if you show consumers concrete solutions for their daily life, their interest in the mobile Internet increases, and they can see the Palm as a personal companion.”
Apart from newspapers, the print ads also will appear in news weeklies and business publications. The campaign also will spread to fashion and sports magazines such as Vogue and O, the Oprah Magazine, where Palm hasn’t advertised before, said Liz Brooking, Palm’s senior director of marketing communications. “We want to go beyond the affluent male demographic to reach a broader audience.”
Palm also will launch several 30-second and 60-second versions of a new television commercial. The ads will appear on network TV, cable TV and in-flight programming. In one spot titled “The Perfect Day,” a series of images from daily life flash up to the beat of pulsing music.
At the same time, messages about different Palm applications also appear, such as “Shave three strokes off your golf stroke” (a golfing software program) and “Carry the office in your pocket” (an e-mail and datebook program). At the end of the spot, the screen reads, “The perfect day is here.” The screen then morphs to say, “With over 10,000 applications, Palm gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.”
Palm also has bought radio spots of 30 and 60 seconds, said Ms. Brooking. There also will be plenty of outdoor-billboard advertising in big cities, including Times Square in New York and Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, as well as in Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.
Citron Haligman Bedecarre also has developed a series of new banner ads for Internet advertising. Clicking on the banner ads will connect the viewer to short movies about some Palm software applications. In one banner ad, for instance, clicking on the ad will take the computer user inside a demo of a golf game that runs on the Palm operating system.
The sweeping ad campaign isn’t confined to the U.S. and will be seen globally during at least the next year, said Palm’s Chahil.
“This is a market-making statement,” he said. “Longevity is built into this campaign so that we can constantly refresh images and style and keep presenting the newness of the Palm.”
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