Users watching ABC's presentation of The Five People You Meet in Heaven Sunday night got more than a heartwarming story about the importance of life. IBM used the heavily rated prime-time program to launch a national ad campaign featuring the i5. The ad, which plugs the i5 as a powerful consolidation server, was first shown to iSeries users during the spring COMMON user conference in San Antonio.
The ad likely knocked more than a few users off their seats, as all indications were that IBM would nix the TV campaign. Pilot ads that ran in Kansas City and St. Louis in May were ineffective, compared to print and radio ads that ran during the same time.
But Peter Bingaman, vice president of IBM eServer iSeries marketing, said IBM never considered the TV ads ineffective. He said the impact of the TV ad was more difficult to track than the print and radio ads because the print and radio spots were intended to draw people to an IBM event -- a tangible measure of effectiveness.
Bingaman said IBM's purpose in running the TV ad is to generate awareness of the i5 in the market. "I can't think of anything more effective than television to do that at this point."
The TV ads are a major departure for the iSeries arm of IBM, which has been generally reluctant to spend marketing dollars on ads in broad markets. In fact, just over a year ago, Al Zollar, the former iSeries general manager, said while the company would consider TV advertising, the effectiveness in targeting potential iSeries customers was questionable. It also appeared at that time that the possibility of TV ads was unlikely. The company shifted directions slightly seven months later, announcing it would in fact test market an i5 ad in select cities.
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This effort has been fueled mostly by users who fear the platform is dying a slow death because of marketing neglect. In May, IBM kicked off a massive new marketing campaign dubbed "iSeries. mySeries." So far, observers have said the campaign has been a disappointment, but prime-time TV ads could be the beginning of a major turnaround for the platform.
The ad will run several more times in prime-time spots, Bingaman said, and will next air on ABC's Lost on Wednesday, Dec. 15. The company would not reveal the full schedule except to say the ads would likely run on other ABC hit shows.
Bingaman said the ads will run up until Q1 when it's likely another campaign will begin. He could not say at this time whether that campaign would include more TV ads.
The fact that IBM is running the ads on such high-profile shows is a message to iSeries users that Big Blue is not going to abandon the iSeries, Bingaman said. "First, we knew we had to do this as a business to reestablish awareness. But it was important to send a signal to users that we're committed to this platform. We're taking our promise from COMMON and we're acting on that. We want them to know that. It's a big play for us and very important to IBM."
Users can view the ad that aired Sunday night here.