Big Blue Promises To Help Companies Be Unique

IBM’s new “Innovation That Matters” campaign from Ogilvy & Mather repositions Big Blue as a means for companies to significantly change how they do business when seeking new ways to grow. The global effort—which introduces the tagline, “What makes you special?”—responds to growing evidence that corporations, after years of retrenchment, are embracing change.

IBM recently completely a study involving 765 CEOs, senior executives and public sector leaders that confirmed what the company had heard anecdotally: Sixty-five percent of the CEOs plan to radically change their companies in the next two years. The new campaign succeeds “On Demand Business,” which ran for four years and portrayed IBM as a problem-solver.

Ogilvy’s previous TV spots were more quirky and dialogue-driven than the first of the new batch, which range from a metaphorical, 60-second anthem depicting blue flower petals floating over everyday scenes to “Water Cooler,” which shows office workers converging to swap ideas in the middle of a desert. The new tone is “not so slice of life” and “serious about profitability and growth,” said Deirdre Bigley, vp of worldwide advertising at the Armonk, N.Y.-based client.

In addition to eight TV spots, the global effort includes 15 outdoor executions, a half-dozen print ads, banner ads and 28-by-48-foot decals that will be placed on the tarmacs of two Manhattan helipads—a first for IBM. The decals, which Ogilvy co-executive creative director Chris Wall described as “metaphorical illustrations,” target corporate decision-makers.

Spending was not disclosed, but the work, which broke last week in the U.S., will eventually be seen in 12 markets. Last year, IBM’s U.S. major media spending exceeded $200 million, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, and globally, it spent $1.28 billion on the broader category of advertising and promotions, per IBM’s annual report.

The global study also revealed that CEOs are increasingly looking beyond new products and services to grow profits, focusing instead on changing business models or operations, often with the help of outside consultants. “We felt a dramatic shift going on in business,” even before the study, said Bigley, who added that many CEOs, after years of cost-cutting, now are looking at their companies and asking, “What’s unique?”

That sentiment permeates the anthem ad, in which the flower petals seem to inspire groups of men and women to sing along with an obscure Kinks song that speaks to the new positioning: “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” The spot ends with a series of questions that appear on screen in white type: “What makes you DIFFERENT? What makes you UNIQUE? What makes you SPECIAL?”

Another spot takes a fairy tale approach. In it, a stream of office plants flee commoditized companies after realizing that they’ll only get watered at companies that are growing, said Wall. Yet another spot features a businessman in his hotel, tired and hungry but thinking twice about spending $8 on a jar of nuts. The spots were directed by Joe Pytka, who has worked on the brand for about a decade. Actor Sam Elliott provides voiceovers.

Across all the work, WPP Group’s Ogilvy sought to convey a “sense of imagine and possibility,” but also IBM’s “ability to execute,” said Wall. “This isn’t just whimsy. It’s real.”