IBM Top Marketer Kohnstamm to Depart

SAN FRANCISCO IBM today said Abby Kohnstamm would leave her current position as senior vice president of marketing to pursue a combination of personal and business interests. The move is effective Jan. 3.

IBM spent more than $400 million on paid media last year, and $150 million through the first half of 2005, per TNS Media Intelligence.

“After a long and distinguished career in marketing, the last dozen years in IBM and previously at American Express, Abby has decided that at this point in her life, she would like to spend a considerable amount of her time giving back in the nonprofit sector,” said IBM chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano in a company memo. “This will also give her time to pursue other business interests, including serving on corporate boards and consulting. Abby has also agreed to stay connected to IBM and apply her considerable expertise and experience on a consulting basis.”

Under Kohnstamm’s guidance, IBM merged its sundry advertising. Big Blue used to work with multiple agencies, but consolidated its ad efforts with WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in May 1994. Kohnstamm worked with former IBM chair Louis Gerstner at American Express and joined the IBM team in 1993.

Bruce Harreld will assume responsibility for the marketing function, in addition to his role as senior vp of strategy. Harreld and Kohnstamm will work together in the coming weeks to recommend organizational changes and manage related transition details.

“Abby has been a remarkable client. She is brave, bold and smart,” said Ogilvy worldwide CEO Shelly Lazarus, in a statement. “She is a champion of ideas [and] understands brands and brand building profoundly. Her contribution to the turnaround of the IBM brand is beyond measure.”

Lazarus added that Kohnstamm “makes true the belief that one person can make an enormous difference.”