Computer on a (Smart) Card
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Holmes Report

Computer on a (Smart) Card

The Hoffman Agency was charged with establishing MIPS Technologies as a leader in smart card technology. The “futuristic-type” applications of smart cards and the absence of a “smart card leader” in the United States presented an opportunity for MIPS Tech

Paul Holmes

The Hoffman Agency was charged with establishing MIPS Technologies as a leader in smart card technology. The “futuristic-type” applications of smart cards and the absence of a “smart card leader” in the United States presented an opportunity for MIPS Technologies to establish itself as a leading smart card expert.  MIPS wanted to make big noise about smart cards at one of the premier trade shows – Smart Cards 2001 – held in England on Feb. 20, 2001. Given the limited resources and the technical nature of the products, the PR program employed creative ingenuity to garner top tier business press, making it the most successful launch to date for the 15-year old company.

Challenges Faced

There were a few major challenges facing MIPS in establishing its expertise in the smart card arena among business press, trade press and industry analysts:
· Smart cards had not gained market acceptance by U.S. consumers.  The explosive growth of the Internet brought about an almost insatiable appetite for personal data by a host of institutions.  With it has come the overwhelming demand for a smart card that consolidates consumer information on a single, secure platform.
· MIPS’ smart card technology was far removed from the card itself.  MIPS develops the core processor architecture for the semiconductor chips that power the smart card (MIPS does not manufacture an actual, tangible product.)
· Awareness of MIPS was low.  Despite inclusions in products like the Sony Aibo, DirecTV set-top boxes and other high-profile devices, awareness of MIPS Technologies within even the trade press was minimal. 

Research Prior to Execution

Coverage of most MIPS stories had been primarily relegated to the trade books, given the highly technical nature of its business.  We decided to look outside of the trades to spread the message that smart cards have arrived further afield, but also to try and overcome some of the “heard-it-all-before” attitude of the Silicon Valley press gallery.

Strategic Approach

After looking at MIPS’ PR assets for the smart card campaign, The Hoffman Agency recommended to MIPS Technologies that it embark on a two-pronged approach:  Increase MIPS’ visibility among key industry analysts first, and then engage in a headlong push with selected business and press targets on how the United States was on the verge of a smart card explosion.

Given the resources and hurdles to put the smart card story on the media’s radar, The Hoffman Agency felt the best way to make the biggest impact was through scoring major media hits in a few high-profile publications.  In our view, getting one hit in CNET was going to make a greater impact than scoring hits in 10 trades. 

Campaign Execution

In order to gain maximum impact, given the low awareness quotient on MIPS and lack of market acceptance on smart cards, the PR took on a multi-layered approach. From January 12-16, The Hoffman Agency took Brian Knowles, MIPS’ vice-president of marketing, out on an “educational” road show about MIPS and laid the groundwork for information regarding the upcoming smart card announcement. The roadshow also garnered some positive feedback from analysts at Cahners In-Stat and META Group, who ultimately were quoted during coverage of the story.

Also part of our strategy was to elevate MIPS’ product announcements to a larger story about smart cards in very selected outlets.  We had worked closely with the client to set expectations on the key media targets (business, trade, broadcast and online) and placed specific goals that we worked toward as part of our success barometer for the campaign. 

By the time the announcement was made on Feb. 20, The Hoffman Agency’s efforts yielded 15 briefings with the key online and print publications.  Broadcast became the primary focus the day of the announcement, including a four-minute feature on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” program.


In the end, the smart card campaign met and exceeded our goal of coverage for the MIPS smart card announcement.  Despite the fact that this was a weekend holiday announcement, The Hoffman Agency secured all targeted top-tier media hits and analyst interviews.  Overall, the coverage was positive and placed MIPS Technologies in a position of strength to drive the IP smart card market and elevate its status as an influential force in the smart card arena.

The big-ticket hits came from The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, CNET (online, radio and broadcast) and Electronic Engineering Times.  These hits alone generated more than 60 million impressions and placed MIPS squarely at the forefront of smart card technology.

In fact, the team from CNBC “Power Lunch” liked the story so much that they hired a crew to shoot B-Roll in advance of the live interview to provide supporting visuals for the segment.  The Wall Street Journal featured good mid-book placement in its popular “Marketplace” section. 

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