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iSeries to get some TV ad play after all

A successful eServer ad campaign got IBM to rethink its position on running TV ads for the iSeries.

SAN ANTONIO -- Riding high from a successful eServer branding campaign, IBM has reversed its position on TV ads for the iSeries. Starting with 30-second spots in two Midwest cities, IBM plans to tell prime-time viewers what iSeries can do for them.

Audiences in St. Louis and Kansas City, cities concentrated with iSeries users, can expect to see the iSeries campaign kick off within the next several weeks.

It was just eight months ago that IBM said TV was not the best medium to carry the iSeries message. But the success of the eServer ad campaign changed all that.

It can't be an ad on Rug Rats.
Barney Boyer
IT operations managerGST Autoleather

"We're hoping to get the same positive results in raising awareness for the iSeries," said Cecelia Maresse, vice president of iSeries marketing.

Immediate user reaction to the news, which was made during the COMMON IT Education Conference being held this week , was not as enthusiastic as IBM would have liked, considering iSeries customers have been telling the company for years that it should push the server into the spotlight.

"Reaction seemed subdued," Maresse admitted. "But that's OK. I think the reaction will come when we get feedback from the ads."

After last year's fall conference in September, it was clear that IBM would continue to invest heavily in its business partners as a way of selling machines rather than spend mega millions on a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl – which many users were hoping for.

It wasn't that TV ads were ever ruled out, only that IBM didn't yet see the value in them. In fact, iSeries general manager Al Zollar said in September that he didn't believe TV ads were where Big Blue's marketing dollars would be best spent -- at least not for the iSeries – and that the company would not invest in TV until it was shown to be effective with IT buyers.

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However, the success of the IBM eServer branding ad campaign, which aired during last year's U.S. Tennis Open, gave IBM hope for a similar campaign for the iSeries.

Zollar said this week that there was enough evidence now that a TV ad campaign could be effective. He's eager to see results, although he remains cautious. "I think you have to keep your expectations at an even keel," he said.

The TV spot shows several hip young professionals sitting around a café-style table discussing one person's decision to consolidate servers using an iSeries. It's unclear who will get credit (or blame) for the decision until the boss walks up to the group and gives his enthusiastic approval.

The objective, said Maresse, is to portray the iSeries as not only a smart business investment but also a very hip and popular one.

IBM also rolled out two other major marketing campaigns this week. A print ad campaign showcasing IBM's new iSeries server, the i5, and its ability to prevent server sprawl ran in Monday's Wall Street Journal and will also run in other general business publications, such as Business Week.

IBM's "iSeries.mySeries" image campaign, which leverages the devotion iSeries users have to the platform, was launched during COMMON. Both campaigns are intended to raise the server's visibility within markets outside the platform.

Following IBM's announcement this week regarding a new iSeries server and a major overhaul of its pricing strategy, Maresse said the time was right to launch an iSeries TV ad campaign. The aggressive new pricing model essentially eliminates the argument that the iSeries is too expensive.

"It gives us an opportunity to target where we haven't been able to target before with credibility," she said.

Some users love the idea.

"The ads will stress the power of the iSeries, which a lot of people [outside the platform] don't understand," said Maurine Schbenstein, senior programmer analyst, Chief Automotive Systems, Grand Island, Neb. "Perhaps an ad [that will play in certain high-level markets] will get to CEOs and CIOs and give them a better understanding and interest in the system. Then maybe the misconception won't be there [about the iSeries being an outdated platform]."

Others remain convinced that viewers glued to their favorite dramatic television shows won't pay much mind to the iSeries.

"They could have continued with the general eServer ads," said Kjell Berndtsson, iSeries administrator, Data 3, Finland. "Sitting-on-the-sofa types don't need to know the iSeries anyway. I think it's a big step to take just to brand the iSeries.

But plenty of users doubt that after finally committing to at least testing out an iSeries TV ad, IBM will get it right.

Barney Boyer, IT operations manager, GST Autoleather, Hagerstown, Md., said he doubted the decision to run the ads in Kansas City and St. Louis, citing that he didn't think they were the right demographics. Still, he said, perhaps if they put them in the right spot. "I mean, it can't be an ad on Rug Rats."


Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor

Dig Deeper on IBM iSeries division news

Meet the new boss CHICAGO -- Since taking over as iSeries general manager at the beginning of the year, Mark Shearer has been in his office a total of three days. But he hasn't been on vacation. Shearer has been traveling the world, promoting the iSeries -- which includes the town hall meeting at the opening of COMMON. During the meeting, IBM illustrated exactly how they would invest in iSeries promotion dollars. Full page reprints of the new ad campaign in the Wall Street Journal were placed on every seat. A new TV ad showed executives laughing at a sleazy Wintel salesman trying to get them to switch to a commodity environment over the iSeries. And the crowd loved it.

In the past, COMMON attendees have addressed the panel at the town hall meeting and said, "It's the marketing, stupid." This year, it seems somebody listened.

Mark Shearer sat down with to discuss the iSeries' new momentum.

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