B-to-b ads tackle Sunday NFL game

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On any given Sunday, you can find a smattering of b-to-b spots competing for the attention of an audience more accustomed to seeing ads for beer, cars and erectile dysfunction medications during the National Football League game. ¶ On one particular Sunday when the game was a blowout and the car and truck commercials were as endless as they were monotonous, the b-to-b spots held up quite well. They certainly belonged on the same playing field with the stars of consumer advertising.

Not lacking for sizzle was a spot for Intel's Centrino Mobile Technology featuring the Blue Man Group and all its frenetic energy. The men in blue were outfitted with power packs and propellers designed to let them take flight. Adorning the front of their flight suits were the images of a giant battery. Laptop users know how fickle batteries can be.

That problem was addressed by the narrator: "When your wireless laptop has technology designed for great battery life, you can do the things you want to do. Make sure it has Intel Centrino Mobile Technology built in." To underscore the problem of inadequate energy, one of the Blue Men makes a rapid ascent only to leave the bottom half of his body on the ground. Ouch! The spot ends with the clever image of a Centrino chip being zipped into the keyboard of a laptop. It was a smart branding maneuver in a spot that was both entertaining and informative.

Nextel, which sponsored this game's in-studio halftime program, used spots that pitched both consumer and b-to-b audiences. In one targeting business decision-makers, Nextel visits a nondescript office where a pair of businessmen dance with awkward abandon to a tune pulsating from a boom box being held by a co-worker.

But the boss crashes the party and demands to know what's going on. He's concerned. "We don't know how many converters we have in stock. We don't know where our trucks are," says the boss, adding that a key employee is also apparently unaccounted for. The music stops, and so does the dancing, but only long enough for one of the men to check the screen on his Nextel phone which indicates there are 6,000 converters in inventory. The other man pulls up a map on his laptop indicating the exact location of the company's fleet, and the missing employee reports in from the airport on his Nextel phone that doubles as a walkie-talkie.

Enough said. The music and the painfully bad dancing resume. The spot's end frame nicely ties up the benefits that were comedically presented by the bad dancers: GPS services, inventory control and walkie-talkie.

There's none of the levity of Nextel's spot in a commercial for UPS. A no-nonsense-type guy who looks as intimidating as an NFL linebacker sings the praises of the shipping and logistics company: "Brown's got the horsepower. They've got the planes, the technology. Truth is, I don't care how they do it. I just care that my packages get there on time. Hey, all I ask is for perfection. Other than that, I'm pretty easy."

The tough guy strolls through a warehouse but softens a bit when he encounters the UPS guy, who offers a tablet for signature. The spot was marvelously produced. The quick cuts of UPS trucks, planes or conveyors set against a hard-driving rock score drove the message ahead and made the spot impossible to resist.

Finally, there was a spot for IBM in which a pair of businessmen at a busy lunch counter snipe at each other over which one has the tiniest laptop. "I've been given the thinnest, flattest ThinkPad ever ... ergo ... player," boasts one of the men who clicks off a series of the ThinkPad's unique features. Not to be outdone, the other man lays his ThinkPad on the counter next to his colleague's. The machines are identical in size. "And did you get the leather case ... Or was that just me?" he asks sarcastically. At the conclusion, the female narrator intones: "Wireless for players. Only on a ThinkPad."`

Like the other b-to-b spots during the game, IBM's commercial was more than good enough for prime time on the NFL. M

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