AKQA Sees New Target for PDAs

The search for buyers has led Palm to target a group largely overlooked by high-tech marketers: stay-at-home moms.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company, which has long marketed its PDAs to tech-savvy professionals and students, is set to launch a $5 million national print campaign created by AKQA in San Francisco. The ads target homemakers, urging them to use the handheld devices to keep tabs on appointments and other daily activities. They coincide with Palm’s arrival in Target, Kmart and other mass-market retail chains.

“Mothers have grocery lists and to-do lists for kids and are desperate to have some organization,” said Beth McConahey, AKQA’s associate planning director.

Two print ads break nationally Oct. 28 and will run through the holidays. The ads, which will appear in Time, Ladies’ Home Journal and other magazines, show overworked mothers and preoccupied children.

One has a mother driving a van with a mischievous-looking child in the back seat. A large plant is sticking out of the sunroof. Text at the bottom of the ad reads, “Errand schedule” and “Teacher conference,” among other chores. The ad also includes a small photo of the Zire handheld, which retails for $99.

The other ad has a photo of a toddler shoving her foot in her mouth. Text reads, “Toddler tips,” “Doctor number” and other chores. Copy reads: “Life is hard. This is easy.”

The ads add a new wrinkle to a maturing category and mark a sharp departure for the 10-year-old client. The new marketing tack is also tied to Palm’s efforts to rejuvenate its once-dominant brand in the face of increasing competition from brands like Handspring.

Palm’s sales have suffered of late, and its ad budget has dwindled. The company recently reported sales were off 20 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2001. The company, which was spending an estimated $70 million when AKQA (then known as Citron Haligman Bedecarré) won the business in 2000, is set to spend about $15 million this year.

“They are looking at this campaign as the mainstreaming of the PDA,” said McConahey.