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High-Tech Gizmos Take Low-Tech Ad Approach — Apple’s Newton, AT&T’s Eo Hand-Held Computers Eschew Technospeak to Befriend Consumer Masses By Daniel S. Levin

SAN FRANCISCO – They’re the next generation of gee-whiz

The Newton, which Apple introduces this week, and Eo, a startup 51% owned by AT&T which began rolling out a few weeks ago, are the first in a category expected to become quickly crowded – ‘personal digital assistants,’ or PDAs. They are hand-held computers that can function as faxes, phones and calendars. But before they are widely embraced, consumers will have to view PDAs as a product for the masses, not the hacker elite. While other computer advertising often degenerates into a mine-is-bigger-than-yours boast-fest of milliseconds and megabytes, these ads will take a different turn.
Apple, which sources said could spend as much as $4-5 million for the initial Newton launch, will follow an approach similar to its PowerBook ads. ‘They are not tech ads,’ said Apple spokesperson Frank O’Mahony of the advertising that breaks later this month. ‘The trick is to present it in such a way that people recognize these are things that they do everyday.’ Mahony declined comment on the ad budget.
BBDO has assigned the creative for Newton to its S.F. office, though the L.A. shop, which handles Apple’s other products, will assume all other duties.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Eo, the first into the market with these gadgets, has launched with a $1.5-million budget in business publications such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review and airline magazines. The ads, from Woolward & Partners here, focus on how Eo allows executives to stay in touch with their businesses, even when they’re at remote locations. ‘There’s technology in lots of products, like cars, washing machines and stereos, but none of the advertising for them focuses on the technology,’ said Iain Woolward, founder of the agency with his name. ‘They focus on the benefits, on what it does for the user.’
Jeffrey Henning, a senior analyst with BIS Strategic Decisions in Norwell, Mass., said the approach makes sense considering PDAs still represent unfamiliar territory to consumers. Unlike laptop computers and cellular phones, which were easy for consumers to grasp conceptually as the portable versions of their desktop counterparts, PDAs represent a new concept that will require broad education to prepare consumers. ‘It’s important to step back and say this is the benefit of this type of product,’ said Henning. ‘The technospeak makes sense when its a mature market, when you’re selling on features.’
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