Porter Novelli Wins Bluetooth

The IBM ThinkPad uses it. So does the Palm personal digital assistant. Now it’s up to Porter Novelli to tell the world just what Bluetooth wireless technology can do.

Following a review, the Omnicom shop has won the global PR business of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, an association that includes IBM, Microsoft, Ericsson, Nokia, 3Com and Intel. The technology—named after a famous Viking by its Scandinavian developers—allows cell phones, PDAs, PCs and other devices with Bluetooth chips to communicate with each other over short distances.

The Overland, Kan., client wants consumers to actively seek out products that incorporate the technology. Last year 33.8 million units of Bluetooth-enabled chip sets were shipped in the U.S., according to Allied Business Intelligence, which predicts that number will climb to 1.2 billion units by 2005.

“There’s a real awareness [of the brand] but not of what Bluetooth can do,” said Tim Walmsley, international director and technology practice leader at Porter Novelli’s Paris office.

One of Bluetooth’s strengths is that it has the backing of many big companies, and “that doesn’t happen often for a new technology,” said Matthew Towers, senior analyst at IMS Research in London.

But Bluetooth presents “a unique challenge from a PR perspective,” said Simon Ellis, marketing manager at Intel in Santa Clara, Calif. “Traditionally you have something tangible, [but] in this case it’s a group of over 1,000 companies, [and] it’s more about the technology.”

Wi-Fi, which provides wireless, high-speed access to the Internet, is viewed as Bluetooth’s chief competitor; Nokia, Toshiba, Sony and Philips, among others, form the Wi-Fi Alliance.