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No TV ads for iSeries

Al Zollar said the iSeries won't be advertised on TV. Despite users' hopes to the contrary, the iSeries general manager says he's not convinced a TV ad would be money well spent.

ORLANDO -- If you're hoping to someday see an iSeries ad during the Super Bowl, get over it. In fact, squash any hopes you have about seeing an iSeries TV ad anywhere, anytime.

It's not that IBM's iSeries general manager Al Zollar is opposed to television advertising; it's just that he doesn't believe it's where Big Blue's marketing dollars would be best spent -- at least not for the iSeries.

You'd think users would get tired of asking, but questions about iSeries marketing took center stage once again during the COMMON iSeries Nation session, where users get to pummel iSeries executives with complaints. This year's session was livelier than most, but it hardly put any execs on the hot seat. It's a good bet, too, that the tech support guys in Rochester will be getting bonuses this year, judging from the kudos tech support received at the show.

Still, between the questions about bad billing and quirks in V5R2 and the praise for tech support, what users really wanted to know was what IBM is going to do about the bad rap the server gets among non-users, and why IBM isn't advertising the iSeries on TV.

Zollar wasn't about to buckle under the pressure.

"We are not going to invest in TV until we can prove it sells," he said. Zollar said he is very aware of the image the iSeries has among the general populous, but he insisted that advertising the iSeries on TV isn't going to change the server's image.

In an attempt to drive his point home, Zollar asked for a show of hands as to who in the audience works for companies that advertise on television. Fewer than 10% said they did.

They don't advertise because it's not a good investment, Zollar told them.

It's not that IBM is averse to television advertising. In fact, the company just launched a huge Linux campaign that aired Sunday during the men's final of the U.S. Open and this year's opening National Football League games. In addition, IBM has put millions into promoting its eServer brand (which, of course, includes the iSeries, thoughs ads never mention it by name) in television commercials as well as print ads.

According to Cecelia Maresse, vice president of iSeries marketing, IBM is about to dive deeper into the TV market and will take its time testing the waters promoting the eServer brand.

"We're just starting our television advertising," she said. "For now, we have no iSeries plans. We're going to see what this [current TV ads] tells us."

But even Maresse admitted defeat at home. During one of the ad segments the previous weekend, her two children, who are 13 and 11, saw an eServer ad and asked their mom, "Where's the iSeries?"

Still, Zollar said, IBM's money is going to be spent working with independent software vendors and business partners. IBM is giving them the tools to work within target company demographics and communicate the value proposition of the iSeries -- business solutions.

While many users contend that Microsoft Windows is pushing the iSeries into oblivion, Zollar said IBM isn't going to declare war on Windows.

Zollar said that it's futile to try to best Windows in terms of user base and general popularity. "There's no amount of money that's going to make that happen," he said.

"This is not an intergalactic battle," he added. "Are there as many people buying iSeries as Windows? No. But that doesn't mean [the iSeries] is not going to be successful."


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