IBM Debuts Huge Ad Push for On-Demand Initiative

IBM is launching a massive advertising campaign to push its new far-reaching enterprise computing initiative.

The Armonk, N.Y., tech giant reportedly expects to spend between $700 and $800 million to promote “e-business on demand,” its push for open standards and self-healing computer systems in the enterprise. Following the lead of its quirky “e-business” ad campaign, IBM’s advertisements take a light-hearted approach, contrasting the company’s proactive enterprise computing applications with a “business time machine” that allows companies to correct past missteps.

WPP Group’s Oglivy is handling the account, which will feature television, print and online advertisements, in addition to direct marketing and sponsorships.

“We’re trying to introduce this whole concept of an on-demand world,” said Ogilvy executive creative director Chris Wall. “It’s a fairly complex thought to engage in.”

The campaign will encompass most of the IBM’s ad budget for the year. In 2001, IBM spent $314.8 million on advertising, according to CMR, not including direct marketing, sponsorships and other marketing activities.

IBM said it plans to spend heavily domestically on the campaign in November and December, and then launch it outside the United States in January.

The launch was timed to coincide with IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano’s sketch of technology’s future for analysts and customers yesterday. He unveiled IBM’s vision of “on-demand computing,” which is based on open standards that underpin integrated systems boasting self-healing capabilities.

IBM’s ad campaign will also boast of its beefed up IT services unit, which recently added PwC Consulting to the fold in a $3.5 billion deal to create the largest IT services organization.

The campaign began with a cryptic advertisement in Tuesday’s New York Times for a business time machine made by a company called Bagotronics. At the Bagotronics Web site, users could view a spoof infomercial with actor Ben Vereen pushing the time machine, which is hyped to “erase all your costly business blunders” for three payments of $299.95. Users are encouraged to look in today’s editions of the Wall Street Journal, the Times and San Jose Mercury News for further details.

The eight-page ad insert that appears in these publications details how IBM’s services differ from Bagotronics’ pie-in-the-sky solutions — magic business beans, universal business adaptors, and business reality detectors — to position IBM as the logical choice for technology that solves real business problems before they become headaches.

TV ads are slated to begin running this weekend, featuring inventors who present magic machines for business problems to corporate environments.

“It’s about the hype of technology and the over-promise that technology will cure everything, which has been proven untrue,” Wall said.

Along with the print and TV ads, IBM began running banner ads on business Web sites, including WSJ.com, businessweek.com and Forbes.com.

In many ways, IBM’s campaign faces a tough sell, as business IT spending has ground to a halt. Lagging corporate profits have combined with an already shaky economy given more jitters by the potential for a war in Iraq to put off the hoped-for rebound in tech spending during the second half of 2002. Most analysts predict that an uptick in corporate IT spending will have to wait until next year.

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