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Lightening the Data Overload

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Howard, Merrell & Partners' kick-off campaign for SAS software tackles a quintessential problem plaguing high-tech firms looking to gain market share—converting complex services into commonplace imagery.

Two exquisitely shot and digitally enhanced 30-second television spots use falling rain and wheat being harvested to convey the essential message: unrefined data is worthless unless converted into usable knowledge.

"SAS has the ability to mine and cleanse data and pluck information out of it," said HM&P creative director Scott Crawford. "We needed to create this feeling of being data overrun."

And, of course, provide a solution for harried executives buried by data overload.

The growth of e-commerce has made SAS software a vital customer relationship tool for its core Fortune 500 market.

"This software can show up in marketing, finance and strategic decision making," said Crawford. "So we're targeting the chief executive officers, chief operating officers and chief financial officers out there."

On the strength of these so-called "data-mining" and "data analysis" tools, SAS is now one of the world's largest privately held software suppliers with $1.2 billion in annual sales. Not surprisingly, that success has drawn the attention of some powerful competitors.

"Strategically, our biggest challenge is ramping up a company that has been around for 25 years, but is still unknown outside a niche market," said Crawford. "So we have to build awareness very quickly to keep Microsoft, Oracle and other competitors from stealing market share."

The spots, part of the Raleigh, N.C., shop's $20 million advertising campaign, broke last week on financial news outlets in major markets across the country.

A radio component is scheduled to begin next month.

The SAS Institute in Cary, N.C., developed as part of North Carolina's highly regarded Research Triangle Park initiative.