CAMPAIGNS: Early push allows Toshiba tablet PC to win over media

PR Team: Toshiba (New York) and Benjamin/Weber Shandwick (Irvine, CA) Campaign: Tablet PC launch Time Frame: November 2001-November 2002 Budget: $313,000

PR Team: Toshiba (New York) and Benjamin/Weber Shandwick (Irvine, CA) Campaign: Tablet PC launch Time Frame: November 2001-November 2002 Budget: $313,000

When Microsoft announced the conception of a new PC platform in 2001, many hardware companies quickly lined up to produce the hardware that would run the software. The tablet PC, a pen-based PC roughly the size of a laptop screen, caught the attention of six hi-tech companies: Acer, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Motion Computing, Toshiba, and ViewSonic. With Microsoft planning to debut the new platform in late 2002, Toshiba knew the other hi-tech companies would all try to make as much noise as possible with their own tablet PCs. "All the hi-tech companies were going to talk to the same editors," says Lisa Zwick, SVP and GM of Benjamin's Irvine office. "They were all using the same resources from Microsoft. The press and analysts were already buzzing about the tablet PC. But they were skeptical." Strategy Benjamin, AOR for Toshiba's computer systems group in the US, realized that if the company was going to ride the wave of interest when the tablet PC was finally introduced, as well as rise above its competitors, it had to get a head start. Not only did Toshiba have to convince skeptical tech journalists and analysts that this time the buzz behind the next great innovation was deserved, the company also needed to convince them that Toshiba's tablet PC beat the bunch. "This was an opportunity to demonstrate our innovation and technology as a leader," says Howard Emerson, VP of marketing communications for Toshiba's computer systems group. So Benjamin decided to get out in front of the press and analysts early, nearly a year before Microsoft lifted the curtain on its latest and greatest platform. Tactics But Benjamin didn't pitch stories just about the company. Instead, the agency brought Toshiba to the table as an industry leader that could talk about why the tablet PC is important, and why it is here to stay. "If we just focused on the hardware, the media would not have been as interested," says Zwick. "We had to talk about the bigger picture, and have the media buy into that. Then they would talk about Toshiba." Benjamin targeted the typical roster of tech publications and websites, including CNET, eWeek, and PC World, hoping to reach those early adopters who can not only make or break a new platform, but also anoint the king of the tech hill. But Benjamin also targeted more mainstream media outlets, including Forbes, ABC News, and consumer media. "We wanted to make this a consumer story," says Zwick. "We wanted to show the benefit to everyone. We believed we would see the early adopters. But we wanted to create so much buzz that the gap between the early adopter and the mainstream consumer wouldn't be so big." After months of meeting with the media and press, and sending out a limited number of evaluation units, Benjamin's work came to a head on November 6. The agency rented the Good Morning America studio in Times Square, and also took over the Jumbotron and ABC's digital news ticker. Toshiba debuted its tablet PC to 75 journalists who attended the launch party, and broadcasted a tablet PC video on the Jumbotron. Results Following the press event, more 650 million people saw news reports about the tablet PC and Toshiba's model in newspapers, magazines, TV programs, websites, and other media outlets over two days. And that coverage generated enough interest from the tech-buying public that Toshiba increased its tablet PC production by 35%, says Zwick. Toshiba's tablet PC also won a Best of Show award at Comdex, and Editors' Choice awards from CNET and PC Magazine. Future Toshiba will continue sending evaluation units to targeted press, and Benjamin will focus on vertical publications that cater to markets such as medical and manufacturing, demonstrating how Toshiba's tablet PC can benefit those industries.

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