Gateway Launches School-Focused Ads

In a bid to boost now-lackluster sales during the coming quarter, PC maker Gateway is moving to cash in on the coming “back to school” season with a new campaign.

The Poway, Calif.-based company’s new “Power Up for School” campaign debuts Monday night with two national spots that show happy, playing children getting nabbed by parents eager to send them back to school.

“Ready or not, you’re going back to school,” says copy in the spots. Instead of fretting about it, Gateway urges students, parents and teachers to buy one of the company’s desktop PCs or notebooks, which will include a bundled special version of Microsoft Office XP. The deal is good only for educational customers.

“Nobody’s more excited about kids going back to school than their parents,” said Brad Shaw, Gateway senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. “Our ‘Power Up for School’ event is intended to show parents that visiting a Gateway store is an indispensable part of their preparation for the big day. And for students, getting a hot new PC is a lot more exciting than some clothes their parents picked out.”

Radio, newspaper and online ads are also expected to run, borrowing the same message. Gateway’s El Segundo, Calif.-based agency of record Siltanen/Keehn, which has handled the account since last year, designed the ads. Typically, Siltanen/Keehn’s ads show Chairman and Chief Executive Ted Waitt and the company’s talking “spokescow” discussing various offbeat ways to market Gateway PCs.

The campaign comes in support of a big bet by Gateway on third-quarter sales to show that it has staying power in a dismal market for PC manufacturers. On Thursday, the company posted a second-quarter loss of $58.5 million, or $0.19 per share, two cents wider than Wall Street’s per-share expectations, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Executives, however, focused on the fact that sales grew slightly — about $12.6 million — from the previous quarter, Gateway’s first increase during second quarter since 1997. (A year earlier, quarterly revenues had been 50 percent greater.)

“Gateway is growing again,” Waitt said on Thursday in announcing the results. “Our hard work is starting to pay off, and we’re going to keep building on this momentum for the back-to-school buying season in the third quarter.”

Wall Street, too, is looking for the company to see a healthier third quarter, with analysts expecting a loss of $0.14 per share.

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