c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

Some items that were commonplace when Staples, the office products chain, opened in 1986 may seem like quaint artifacts today but are still, in fact, sold by the store, including typewriters, Rolodexes and daily planners. A new ad campaign by the retailer is not promoting basic office supplies of any era, however, but rather the increasingly vast array of other products it sells.

A new commercial opens in an office, where a tie-wearing man with a drawer full of cleaning products is cheerfully cleaning, donning surgical gloves to swab his telephone with a disinfecting wipe, vacuuming his keyboard with a special attachment and, using a hand-held steam cleaner, sanitizing the surface of his desk.

“Staples has everything you need for a germophobe-friendly office,” says a voice-over as the worker reaches under his desk, where three touch-free hand sanitizers are mounted. There is a loud sneeze, and the camera pans to a disheveled, bearded co-worker, seated at a facing desk, who wipes his nose on his forearm and sniffles noisily as the voice-over continues, “Except germ-free co-workers.”

The co-worker sneezes again, but now the germophobe is in a yellow hazmat suit. “Thousands of products added online every day — even biohazard suits,” the voice says.

Another spot, which is being introduced Monday, features a futuristic factory. It, too, highlights products that consumers might not expect to find at Staples, like hard hats, wrenches, safety goggles, mops and coffee. The germophobe ad and two others are to start in February.

The campaign, which introduces the tag line “Make more happen,” is the first for Staples by McGarryBowen, New York, part of the Dentsu Aegis Network division of Dentsu. Staples, which declined to disclose advertising expenditures for the campaign, spent $64.3 million on advertising in the first nine months of 2013 and $87.1 million in the full year of 2012, according to the Kantar Media unit of WPP.

In the regular Staples logo, which is all capital letters, the “L” is a staple positioned like a left bracket, its uppermost segment bent over. In a sequence in the new commercials, the letter is being replaced by a rapid succession of either L-shaped objects, like a right-facing dolly, rubber boot and floor polisher, or two or three straight objects arranged at a right angle to form the letter, like paintbrushes, bottled water and dog biscuits.

In a public relations and social media campaign by Edelman, part of Daniel J. Edelman Inc., on Thursday the “L” in the logo will disappear from the brand’s online properties, including its website and Facebook page, as well as on electronic signage inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and a hashtag, #WhatTheL, will be introduced on Twitter.

A week later, on Jan. 9, items will be swapped in for the “L,” as they are in the commercials, with the Staples website swapping in different items daily.

Staples, which has about 2,200 stores in more than 25 countries, is said to be the second-largest online retailer, behind Amazon. Along with increased competition from Amazon, where consumers can find competitively priced binder clips and manila folders, Staples has faced a slackening demand for such office supplies as workplaces become increasingly paperless.

Shira Goodman, executive vice president for global growth at Staples, said that over the last year the company had added products from various categories and had gone to 300,000 items on offer at Staples.com, from 70,000, by both adding to its own inventory and teaming up with specialty retailers.

“We really embarked on this reinvention over a year ago and have been very aggressively and quietly adding the products our business customers want and need,” Goodman said, adding that the strategy was to get businesses that come to Staples for items like copy paper to also order items they typically get from business-to-business suppliers.

“Someone from a doctor’s office who came to our stores used to buy just office products and every once in a while would buy a laptop,” she said. “But now they can buy rolls of exam table paper, gloves and stethoscopes.”

While shoppers are unlikely to find at Staples’ retail stores the 23 stethoscopes it carries online (priced from $7.50 to $299), they can order them from home or at in-store kiosks through what Staples calls its omni-channel system and have them delivered either to stores for pickup or to homes and offices.

Along with health care, the website now has a section for retail stores — with items like pricing guns, time clocks and mannequins — and another for education. Sections to be unveiled soon will offer products for businesses like restaurants, tailors, florists and spas.

Staples posted $6.1 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2013, a drop of 3.8 percent compared with the same period in 2012, and its revenue for the full year of 2012 was down 1.2 percent from 2011. In a recent article on The Motley Fool, an investment website, Timothy Green, a financial analyst, said selling a broader range of products brightens Staples’ revenue outlook.

“Once the revenue generated from these new areas reaches a critical mass, Staples will return to growth,” Green wrote. “This is exactly the kind of shift that Staples needed.”

Being named after an office product might seem like a hindrance for a company striving to be known for more than office products, but Goodman, the Staples executive, said “the brilliance of the name” was its other meaning: essentials.

Had the founders chosen another name 28 years ago, she added, it would be another story.

“One of the names they considered was ‘8 1/2 by 11,’” she said. “Thank goodness we didn’t use that.”