Hewlett-Packard's new printer marketing campaign - a downloadable game from the Internet - was slammed this week for encouraging cyber-skiving and even risking people's jobs.
The Institute of Directors was amongst organisations unhappy about HP's controversial "Network Racing Challenge" marketing campaign for its range of Jetdirect printer products.
Network users are invited to download a high-speed racing game, Jetspeed, from the HP Web site. In the game drivers race through a digital office, weaving past print servers, PCs and CD-ROM towers to 'lap the LAN' and collect points. The better the driver's knowledge of HP products, the better the time.
Ruth Lea, head of the Institute of Directors' policy unit was horrified, "If Hewlett-Packard is aware that it is in-effect encouraging employees to time waste than that is not an ethical marketing policy."
Users can play solo or over the company network to race against colleagues, which would add to network traffic and potentially slow it down.
Clive Jackson, creative director at Global Beach, the game's developers, claimed, "Jetspeed uses a minuscule amount of bandwidth, it will never drain the network."
Many companies have made it a sackable offence to play games during office hours, and a number of analyst's surveys have reported real concern over the amount of time and money is lost to business due to employees who 'cyber-skive'.
Melissa Bane, analyst at the Yankee Group said, "It's the kind of marketing campaign that can blow up in a company's face. It's one thing to try to entertain customers while building brand, but to offer a network-based game implies taking time off during work. That's not likely to be popular with many corporate managers."
Jackson protested that Jetspeed wasn't designed to be used during the day, "It is an educational team-building exercise for the end of the day. It is designed to raise awareness of networking to the end-user."
When a user starts a multi-play game, those on the network who have also downloaded the game are notified. "There is a safety-valve. No-one can play it surreptitiously," he said but confirming in the process that this could also be interpreted as encouraging the rest of the workgroup to join in.
The company said it had a network filter to prevent a multi-player game from starting if there is too much network traffic, and stop a game in progress if the network gets too busy.
A HP spokesman said: "It is a demonstration of network ability and not a game to be played in work-time. Hewlett-Packard does not condone anything that would go against a company's guidelines of employment."
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