The booth-babe of Comdex past may have gone out of style, but Packard Bell NEC Inc. is adopting a new spin on an old formula to catch readers' eyes. To wit, the company's new advertising campaign features a 6-foot-4-inch blond transvestite in full makeup and high heels and a form-fitting dress.
Who's the leggy blond in the ads for NEC's Versa 2600 notebooks? None other than RuPaul, a cross-dressing singer and actor, whose full name is RuPaul Andre Charles.
The Mountain View, Calif., company said RuPaul was chosen as one of the representatives for Packard Bell NEC's new campaign because of his "versatility." The theme of the campaign is "versatile notebooks for versatile people."
"This isn't meant to be provocative for the sake of being provocative," said Kerry Zeida, vice president of corporate communications at NEC. "This is really trying to find celebrities that match the characteristics of the ad itself."
Zeida said the advertisements, which began running earlier this month, will continue all year, featuring other celebrities such as Tracey Ullman and Jerry Lewis. Another campaign with an unnamed athlete will also run.
In addition to appearing in computer magazines, the advertisements will appear in mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone, Zeida said. The hope is that the campaign will push NEC into the top tier of notebook vendors.
"There is a desire to broaden beyond the traditional IS core," he said. "Purchases today are made by hip people. We don't want [Rolling Stone readers] to yawn when they see our ads. We want it as sophisticated and as creative as they are."
Zeida said NEC has received some letters chastising the company for using an openly gay cross-dresser in its campaign, but added that "for every one, we've gotten another one saying this is a very gutsy, very sophisticated approach."
"I wasn't concerned so much that people would be turned off by him, as I was concerned that people wouldn't know him," he said.