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Hype Sheet: HP Hollas Back, Girl

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The Pitch Gwen Stefani wants you to know that she just oozes creativity from every pore. "People think you can turn creativity on and off, but it's not like that," the singer-cum-designer declares while sashaying through a cloud of fluttering photographs. "It just kind of comes out, a mashup of all these things you collect in your mind." Soon enough, the surprisingly racktacular Gwen is strutting through the streets of Tokyo while wearing a form-fitting rugby shirt and cherry-red lipstick—an art geek's dream. The spot ends with her gazing into the night sky, and a come-on for viewers to visit and try their hand at creating paper dolls and photo albums. And therein lies this ad's real purpose—trying to find a new-and-better way of integrating the web into traditional (as opposed to guerrilla) marketing campaigns. Is HP on the right path, or are the cool kids right in mocking Stefani's vanity—and, by extension, HP's misguidedness?

Rip-Off Of Sort of a magical realist version of Kate Winslet's AMEX commercial from a few years back, with the focus entirely on an attractive woman's musings as she strolls through a stylish urban milieu. There's also more than a hint of American Beauty in the opening shot—instead of roses, Stefani is peppered with photographs (printed out, one presumes, on an HP Photosmart).

The Spin HP may be veering away from its "The Computer is Personal Again" campaign with this ad, but the message remains the same: Our PCs are an artist's best friend. By enlisting Stefani as a spokeswoman, the company is obviously going for a very specific demographic—high-school and college girls of the sort who walk around with sketchbooks and spend their excess cash at bead stores and Anthropologie. This group has rarely been targeted by the tech industry in the past, so HP senses that such young consumers are ripe for the taking. And the Stefani-themed website that accompanies the ad is just as important as the ad itself; if HP can hold those girlish eyeballs with Gwen's art projects, they've got a good shot at selling some extra dv2500ts this semester.


Counterspin Did the ad's writers go a bit too pretentious with Stefani's voiceover? She's obviously a talented woman, but c'mon—does she really take herself this seriously? The commenters over at The A.V. Club have been having a field day with this spot, picking apart Stefani's use of the term "mashup" as well as her laughable, commerce-only embrace of Rastafarianism. (Best dis over there: "Like Courtney Love, but for kids.") I'm not going to be so hard on the ad—hey, the filled-out rugby shirt just does it for me—but HP really fumbled on the companion website. It's slow and confusingly laid out, and the projects are underwhelming. True, I'm not a 15-year-old girl, but I've got to think that today's teens will find limited entertainment value in printing out greeting cards that announce "Music is My Homegirl."

Takeaway These are heady times for HP, which is making a strong comeback from the days of focusing exclusively on the value market. And the company totally has the right idea in trying to create some synergy between TV and the web; too many admen just use the web as a frill, rather than as an integral part of their marketing. But HP doesn't quite get the online experience right this time. There's too little of Stefani—the reason those young female consumers will be visiting in the first place—and the interactive elements are lackluster. Most annoying: The fact that HP uses the site to try and sell a 36-page photo album from Stefani's latest world tour, for the sky-high price of $29.99. Feel the gouge, Stefani fans.


Hype-O-Meter 6 (out of 10). Yeah, I'm a softie when it comes to artists musing about their craft—even artists as shamelessly commercial as Stefani. But the poor execution on the website really rankles.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both The New York Times and Slate. His Hype Sheet column appears every Thursday on Gizmodo.


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