By Jon Fortt
March 29, 2007

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is set to release a new advertisement for its PCs starring Vera Wang, the luxury fashion designer. It’s another of those “The Computer is Personal Again” spots where famous people talk about how they use HP computers – but this is the first to feature a famous woman.

I got a look at the spot yesterday at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where the computer maker was kicking off its “The Art of Small Business” campaign.

Normally I avoid events that focus on small and medium-size business, because they’re inevitably boring. SMB is the blocking and tackling of IT – stripped down PCs tailored specifically for budget-conscious entrepreneurs, tech support services, and so on. Not exactly the venue for mind-blowing early-adopter tech toys.

But in this case I made an exception and went. HP is becoming a fascinating computer company to watch. Executive Vice President Todd Bradley, the former Gateway operations master and Palm CEO, has managed to turn the money-losing Personal Systems Group into a profit-generating workhorse; and PSG marketing chief Satjiv Chahil, formerly of Apple and Palm, has injected some much-needed marketing flair. Vera Wang’s just the latest example; the company’s got rather cool “Personal” spots starring Jay-Z, Bill Gates and the guys of Orange County Choppers.

(Someone even committed a little Apple (AAPL) heresy and made a spoof starring Steve Jobs.)

So was the HP SMB event thrilling? Not exactly. Even good marketing can go only so far. But there were several nice touches, including testimonials from small business owners, and a GPS-equipped custom motorcycle the Orange County Choppers guys put together for HP. (No, it’s not street legal.) It’s got “The Computer is Personal Again” emblazoned on the side, and the detailing is inspired by a Pavilion PC. Some low-quality video of the chopper, below:

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