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updated 4/4/2007 6:21:15 PM ET 2007-04-04T22:21:15

Obsessing over pocket calculators might not be the hippest hobby for today's online generation, but Hewlett-Packard Co. is hoping a quirky contest will draw out their bravest fans.

The Palo Alto-based technology company is marking its 35th year in the handheld calculator business by encouraging the gadget's most devoted fans to submit short YouTube-style documentary films conveying their affinity for the devices.

Eight finalists will win a trip to Hollywood this summer for the HP Golden Calculator Awards ceremony, and the audience favorite wins a $3,000 high-definition plasma television set.

Analysts said the campaign is part of a growing trend among large companies to incorporate user-generated content into advertisements, turning a small, influential group of customers into an army of trusted and often-unpaid marketers.

Recent examples include a Sprite contest in which consumers submit music tracks online to become the soundtrack for an upcoming television commercial. Doritos aired two user-generated commercials for its snack chips during the Super Bowl, while the Dove line of beauty products also used user-generated video to promote a body wash product.

Emily Riley, an advertising analyst with Jupiter Research, said HP is trying to tap into a younger audience by having a little fun with the campaign, but has to be careful about alienating some fans or sending the wrong message about the brand if it's not embraced by true enthusiasts.

"By poking fun at their biggest fans, they are poking fun at themselves," she said. "It's almost hip to be smart these days, especially online. They're hoping to look a little hipper, a little more in the know about where their future consumers are today."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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