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Ogilvy Has Summer Fun With IBM

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NEW YORK -- IBM takes a whimsical detour this week from its sports-metaphor theme, "e-business-play to win," with a lighthearted summer national TV campaign.

Created by WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, the warm-weather effort is backed by an estimated $35 million in spending, sources said.

"In the fall through the spring, you have a lot of big events-primarily sports, of course-that you can advertise on and look to tie the brand into," said Tom Bagot, associate creative director at Ogilvy. "You don't have that situation in summer. So we needed to produce a more general message."

"Topics like integration of systems and infrastructure are pretty dry, so you need to be really entertaining to break through," said Ann Rubin, IBM worldwide program director.

Like a wacky summer comedy, three new spots highlight IBM's solid dependability by showing a world where faulty network systems are as commonplace as a sunrise.

The first two ads star fictional executives interviewing musicians to help with a new ad campaign. The executives ask rappers and "classic rockers," respectively, for an upbeat jingle that will soothe the customers who hate them.

"No one operator can access our system," one executive laments in both spots. To which the artists respond with strained incredulity, "And you think a song can fix that?"

In the end, an announcer reassuringly tells viewers that Linux, the Internet platform that IBM promotes for its business-solutions products, "is practically bulletproof" and offers easy reliability.

The musician spots will be followed by one about an IT executive who bolts from a meeting to fix a phony system crash, but is actually heading for a vacation "until Labor Day."

Ogilvy launched its "play to win" series of spots last December using a fictitious basketball team (manned by retired NBA players) to illustrate the concept.