IBM Creates Documentaries for Digital Channels

A company as large as IBM doesn’t offer only one solution for its clients, but instead provides different services for each. It’s the adaptive nature of IBM’s services that inspired its agency, Ogilvy, to create a series of documentary-styled videos as part of IBM’s new “What Makes You Special?” campaign.

“One of the things about IBM right now is the actual story we have to tell is a complicated one, because what they do is so radically different from customer to customer, that we found the actual way to tell the story was to have the customers themselves tell the story,” said Susan Westre, executive creative director at Ogilvy.

In what is likely to be a series, the ad agency produced documentary-style segments featuring IBM clients, including Scripps Research Institute and its work researching the avian flu; the New York Police Department creating a searchable database of records; National Geographic’s work with the Genographic Project; and real time scoring for the Professional Golf Association.

To increase exposure for the documentaries, Ogilvy is utilizing a series of banner ads which will run on sites including,,,, and The units draw visitors to the site in with a link like “How can you stop a pigeon from spreading a pandemic?” and allow users to view the short-form video within the banner unit. Ogilvy’s Neo made the media buy for the campaign.

The documentaries will also appear in several other places. Two minute versions will run during the CNBC show, “The Business of Innovation,” where IBM is the exclusive sponsor. Longer versions, running five minutes, will been shown on a CNBC microsite. The videos will also be available elsewhere on the Web, iTunes, and on American Airlines planes through an out of home buy. IBM also has videos posted at for both internal and external use. A secondary purpose for the videos is to support IBM’s sales force.

“There’s been an incredible reaction from the sales force,” said Westre. “There was an incredible rush to get these to take out into the world.”

Recruitment of IBM’s customers was initially a challenge, but “In the end, everyone was extremely excited,” said Aaron Griffiths, group creative director at Ogilvy. “IBM has been leading the customer story version of advertising for years, though mainly in print. It’s always hard to get someone to sign on in an ad campaign until you have a few of them.”

Griffiths said the Scripps Research Institute and NYPD were early to sign on, as they saw it as an opportunity to promote what they were doing, as much as how IBM had aided their operations.

As “take out into the world” relates to video on the Web, the team at Ogilvy has considered the possibility of the docu-ads appearing on video sharing sites like YouTube. “The only hesitation is we don’t want to betray customer trust,” said Griffiths. “They are there to tell the customer’s story; I can foresee the customers worrying about that. IBM certainly is not, and has no intention of controlling it.”

“The stories are so powerful that we don’t want to bury them in an overly-complex execution online,” said Griffiths.

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