IBM to try iSeries TV ads again

IBM plans to aggressively market the iSeries in the coming weeks with a series of TV and print spots, hoping to continue to increase market awareness of the line.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- IBM previewed the rough cuts for a pair of new iSeries TV commercials for attendees at the biannual COMMON user group expo Sunday. Big Blue said it intends to drastically increase its marketing efforts around the iSeries in hopes of continuing to increase industry awareness of the line.

After shying away from TV ads in the past, IBM has become very enthusiastic about embracing the medium as a way of helping establish the brand ever since Mark Shearer took over as the iSeries general manager last year. Big Blue ran TV spots in prime time on ABC last winter and during CBS telecasts of the National Football League playoffs.

The new commercials, featuring the familiar "Take Back Control" slogan, show a group of stressed IT workers screaming "the servers are out of control," before being reassured that the iSeries can solve their server sprawl problems.

Big Blue has also apparently tried to establish a catch phrase in the new ads -- which IBM marketing vice president Maureen McGuire dubbed a response to Intel's successful tone-based kicker for its advertising -- in an attempt to have the IT industry literally chirping the benefits of "the i."

No release date was given for the ads, which IBM said will be placed in high visibility national spots that will once again include the NFL.

Big Blue has brought San Francisco-based advertising firm Plan B to help shape its iSeries marketing strategy. Plan B has worked with Coca-Cola, Napster, Red Stripe and Amazon, and prides itself on a non-traditional approach that includes customer input and so-called "guerilla marketing."

"One of the things we always try and do with our advertising is to cut through the clutter," said Peter Bingaman, iSeries vice president of marketing. "It's very important that we tell the unique story of the iSeries. We are trying to be different; we do have a different story to tell."

IBM is hoping to boost awareness of the iSeries -- which many users have said has suffered from a lack of recognition in an age where college kids are growing up on Windows without knowing much, if anything, about the iSeries.

But Bingaman said Big Blue has made major strides in that area. In the first half of 2005 alone, he said, market awareness of the iSeries has jumped 20%, the largest boost in the line's history. Bingaman said press articles about the iSeries have doubled from the same point last year, and he said recent industry analyst papers have been "very bullish" on the business value of the iSeries.

"It's an incredible growth rate," Bingaman said. "We've made a lot of progress in awareness."

IBM also plans a major international print campaign to supplement the TV spots.

The centerpiece of the upcoming print campaign is a three-page spread in The Wall Street Journal. IBM also said its iSeries marketing campaign will also focus heavily in Japan, China, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, where print ads are currently in circulation.

"I truly believe the iSeries has huge momentum behind it. We've got a long way to go, but I think you can see the commitment we have with the platform," McGuire said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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