IBM, Microsoft Target IT Execs With New Creative

Technology giants International Business Machines (IBM) and Microsoft this week roll out new efforts aimed at wooing executives by pushing the ability of their products and services to help out cash-strapped businesses.

Armonk, NY-based IBM’s new ad campaign, which continues its “on-demand” initiative rolled out with great fanfare last year, is aimed at a global audience and will carry the tagline “Can you see it?” — urging c-level executives to visualize the benefits IBM products and services can bring to their businesses.

Spending was not disclosed, but the company said last year it would shell out between $700 and $800 million to promote “on-demand” overall. People knowledgeable about IBM’s plans say it will maintain the same level of global ad spending as it has in the previous two years, around $600 million — but that figure doesn’t include marketing expenditures other than advertising. Ogilvy & Mather, a division of WPP Group, is IBM’s worldwide agency.

The “Can you see it?” theme first debuted in TV spots IBM aired during the NCAA basketball playoffs in March. The new campaign will continue Monday, on television, in print and online. The initial general print campaign will be followed by a second wave of product-line specific advertisements, such as for the software group, the server group, and for the company’s Linux OS efforts. Each will carry the tagline “Can you see it?” to mesh with the overall corporate theme.

The television ads will feature some of the same characters as the earlier set of on-demand-focused advertising, and they’ll shoot for the same humorous tone as well. In one spot, all of the elements of an office environment — desks, telephones, staffers, etc. — are seen floating in an ocean, but only one person seems to notice the business is adrift. When she tries to point the fact out to the rest of the employees, she’s shushed and told it’s someone else’s meeting. That particular ad is aimed at pushing IBM’s business consulting services, which it beefed up with the acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers last year.

IBM has made “on demand” the centerpiece of its corporate strategy, but a study from Forrester Research found competitor Hewlett-Packard slightly better positioned to offer such services currently, although the same report predicted IBM would close the gap within a year. When it reported results last week, the tech bellwether’s revenues grew by 11 percent to $20.1 billion during the first quarter, owing to global services and middleware sales.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft , for its part, is reportedly breaking a $200 million global ad effort this week aimed at winning over cash-strapped IT executives, according to a report on ad industry publication AdAge.com.

The Microsoft campaign, like the one from IBM, is said to continue an existing theme in the company’s marketing efforts. The print, TV, online and outdoor spots will push three business software products, according to the report, following the theme of “Software for the Agile Business.”

Like IBM’s TV campaign, Microsoft will tap humor for its spots, which will reportedly appear on cable and prime-time network TV. Interpublic Group of Companies’ McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, designed the campaign.

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