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Like 'The Real World,' With More Computers
source: New York Times

Contestants in the video series “Engine Room,” sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and produced by MTV and mtvU, working as a team with the help of H.P. computer gear in a Brooklyn apartment.
NY Times/T. Lawrence Wheatman/MTV

FOR years, MTV has been bringing together eclectic groups of young adults to live together in loftlike spaces on the series "The Real World."

Now, with the backing of a major technology marketer, the network has gathered 16 youthful creative types in a loft in Brooklyn for a contest that can be watched on TV or online.

Beginning on Monday, MTV and its mtvU channel, which is aimed at college and university students, will join forces with Hewlett-Packard to present "Engine Room," an original series that will follow the 16 contestants, divided into four teams, as they produce digital art using -- of course -- PCs, work stations, monitors and other products sold by H.P.

Episodes of "Engine Room" run from five to seven minutes each, and the series is scheduled to last seven weeks. At the end, one team will win prizes that include $400,000 in cash and a chance to program the giant MTV screen in Times Square for a night.

"Engine Room" follows a previous video series that H.P. sponsored with MTV, called "Meet or Delete." It also comes after a video series for the back-to-school season, "Dorm Storm," presented by Hewlett-Packard in partnership with Broadband Enterprises, an online video producer and distributor.

Those series are indicative of the increasing interest in video campaigns among large marketers, particularly to reach younger consumers who have demonstrated a willingness to watch clips on their computers, cellphones and other mobile devices.

"We don't want it to be advertising; we want it to be real," said David Roman, vice president for worldwide marketing communications at the personal systems group of H.P. in Cupertino, Calif.

"We're learning as we go not to do so much talking about what we do but rather let people do things with the product," Mr. Roman said. "That's where the 'wow factor' comes from."

Mr. Roman estimated that spending by Hewlett-Packard for the "Engine Room" initiative would be in "the tens of millions of dollars," beginning with efforts that began months ago to recruit contestants on a Web site (

Almost 2,000 people from 122 countries submitted more than 20,000 original artworks, he said, to earn a chance to take part in the contest.

The teams of contestants are divided by the regions they come from: Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. They are visited during the competition by guests like the musician Moby; Kevin Smith, the movie director; and the British pop band the Ting Tings.

The digital creations of the teams were judged by a diverse panel that included musicians, filmmakers, museum curators, a physicist, a tattoo artist, critics and Pete Connolly, an art director from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the Hewlett-Packard creative agency.

A film that Mr. Connolly created for his résumé inspired a series of commercials for H.P. that features celebrities like Jay-Z, Jerry Seinfeld and Serena Williams.

They are all seen from the neck down while demonstrating how they live their lives digitally.

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