IBM Scuttles Regatta Campaign

An awareness campaign for IBM’s new UNIX server, codenamed “Regatta,” has been scrapped in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks.

The campaign, which debuted in the middle of last month, featured a variety of animated rich media banners and skyscraper ads, depicting a spy’s attempts to steal the secrets behind Regatta’s advanced multi-processing. In one example, a skyscraper shows a maze, with the agent, Delta 3, trying to get to the server room where Regatta is housed — users are invited to try to discern the real spy among several decoys, and to capture Delta 3 by clicking him.

The ads ran on several IT-focused Web sites, including several owned by INT Media’s internet.com unit, which also is the publisher of internetnews.com.

Additionally, the ads linked to a special section of IBM’s corporate site that housed a series of short, streaming video movies depicting Delta 3’s bumbling attempts to get at Regatta. The site also collected email addresses from visitors who wanted to be alerted to the next installment.

The plan called for new clips to be released over a course of weeks, leading up to Regatta’s official launch next week.

Now, however, the campaign and the movies are no longer to be found on IBM’s site. Alex Gogh, director of marketing for the company’s Americas Web server sales division, said in an email to opted-in visitors that the company felt the movies, “intended as light-hearted spoofs of the spy genre … are no longer amusing in light of the tragic events of Sept. 11.”

“It is with the victims and their families in mind that we chose to remove the campaign from ibm.com,” Gogh added.

Now, IBM will conduct a Web seminar on Oct. 4 to announce the new product and its features, which had been described in the deleted films.

An IBM spokesman denied to comment on the campaign’s termination beyond Gogh’s email.

This is the second major effort by IBM to distance itself — and its advertising — from last week’s tragedies. Sources close to the company said that Big Blue also has taken other measures to avoid associating its name with the events. At least two Web news sites told internetnews.com that IBM or its media representatives asked for its advertising to be pulled from news stories covering the terrorist attack and its aftermath.

The practice is very common for advertisers in the offline world, where television sponsors are known for pulling spots from shows they find objectionable. For instance, Federal Express and Sears Roebuck & Co. both pulled spots from ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” following a controversial debate about the terrorists in last Tuesday’s attacks.

However, Big Blue has taken an increasing interest in greater oversight of its online advertising as of late. In late August, the company pared down its roster of interactive agencies to two, owned by WPP Group. In addition to Wunderman and OgilvyOne Worldwide — which jointly retain the account — R/GA, AnswerThink and Interpublic’s Modem Media had shared the IBM work.

Spokespeople at the time cited a renewed focus on consolidated, integrated messaging behind the agency shifts.

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