Cold, dead fish – version 2.0

I cut my technical teeth working within the Hewlett Packard universe (can you say RTE, MPE, HP-IB, m-o-u-s-e).

Back then there was a joke about the ever so technocratic HP. The joke was:

If HP sold sushi, they would market it as cold, dead fish – low on parasites.

Sadly, not much has changed. If you have it handy, grab the November 7th edition of InfoWorld and flip to page 33. On the right there is an advertisement from HP (as there were many marginal advertisements from other vendors) concerning Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs).

The prose of HP’s advertisement are so miserable that embarrassment would be an upgrade in stature. The HP problem now is not the selling of the cold, dead fish, but preventing sales by driving readers into deep comas with buzz word laden drivel. Take for an opening example their opening lines:

Synchronize business and IT . . .

The headline has major defects throughout, most laughingly being what InfoWorld wrote on page 42, namely “Everyone has heard the clichés about ‘aligning business and IT’ . . .” When the magazine you are advertising in says your headline is a cliché, then you have need to strangle your copywriters before they write again. But, it gets much, much worse.

The current business climate demands that companies readily embrace and adapt to change, using technology to switch direction with speed and agility.

This one sentence may win the aware for the longest string of meaningless and overused jargon to ever reduce magazine pulp into glossy toilet paper. The statement is both obvious and without purpose. It alienates firms that are in less competitive markets (say public utilities) that don’t readily switch anything, much less with speed and agility. And clumsy, redundant phrases like “embrace and adapt” show there is a thriving market for thesauruses.

But more to the point, it says nothing useful to the reader, especially in the context of the ad and the surrounding article, both focused on SOA. HP tried ineptly to rescue their opening blunders in the rest of the first line:

SOA can help companies meet this goal by providing well-architected, secure, reusable, managed, and loosely-coupled services across the enterprise that help companies enhance business and IT alignment.

I don’t think War and Peace was as long as that sentence. Nor did it contain as many commas. Imagine for a moment that the topic was an operating system. Could “well-architected, secure, reusable, managed” describe an OS too? Yes it could, which means HP’s run-in sentence provided no value proposition about their product, and certainly no unique differentiator.

At this point the average reader would have turned the page or committed suicide — anything to avoid reading more HP effluvium. But like witnessing a terrible automobile accident, my morbid curiosity was roused and I plunged on into the next passage:

HP’s SOA offering carefully synchronizes business and IT, putting customers on course to build their Adaptive Enterprise.

Oooooook? Not content to bore their readers with clichés and buzz words, HP proceeds to confuse them. First, HP pimps their “SOA offering” without providing the reader any idea of what they offer (indeed, you will not discover what this offering is even if you insanely commit to reading the entire ad). They then blindly hype their “Adaptive Enterprise” initiative, both assuming the read knows what that is and wants to build it.

And that last part was a cardinal sin! Selling product A based on the desire for product/outcome B necessitates the demand for B. If customers don’t know about or want B, product A will die a slow and lingering death. Yet undeterred by these sins, HP seeks to rack up a permanent place in Marketing Hell for this:

These offerings provide the underpinnings of our consulting and integration, service and support, and IT and business process outsourcing;

Aside from sentence structure befitting a brain damaged foreigner, this stanza whirls the reader into a dizzy misunderstanding of whatever it is HP is trying to sell. To understand HP’s point, one must deconstruct the sentence, and since that takes more than five seconds, nobody (except anal retentive blog writers) would bother. But basically HP is selling services of all types, allegedly to help companies design, implement, and support SOA. But I have a $20 bill that nobody outside of HP marcomm group understood that, and I’m not sure people inside of HP’s marcomm group did either.

I could go on (and on, and on, and . . .) about this complete waste of advertising budget, but HP has already paid a high price by inserting this alongside better written appeals from BEA, Intel, IBM and others.

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the cold, dead fish.


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