BtoB's Best Creative: Sun Microsystems

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The soft sell can be a hard thing to master. Even when advertisers try to let the product, service or client speak for itself, the message often ends up being too focused on how great the advertiser is, rather than what the product or service can do for the intended audience. Not so for Sun Microsystems, which ran an online campaign intended to get visitors to participate in discussions about content on the site.

The point of the campaign, created by Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito, Calif., was to weave the essence of Sun's brand positioning, which is sharing, into the conversation between BusinessWeek and its readers, said Chris Cardinal, account director at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners. "Sun believes that sharing is the way to move businesses, ideas and society forward, and we wanted to make sure that came through in the creative," he said.

The ads included a series of banners with a keyboard background. One ad opens with Sun's signature "share" symbol, which resembles a loose "S." The ad transitions to the word "Grandstand," superimposed over a keyboard before minimizing the keyboard background to about half the screen. The other half of the ad delivers the simple message: "Share your thoughts. Join the conversation about this week's cover story." The Sun brand comes through in a few ways: at the bottom of the ad, next to the Sun Microsystems logo, viewers see the S symbol again, along with the word "share." The S also serves as a divider between the keyboard half of the ad and the half that houses the copy. Similar executions include the words "Podium" and "Public Address" in lieu of "Grandstand."

Another series in the campaign gets viewers involved in a similar way, encouraging them to "vote" on the week's cover story by clicking buttons that read "Bell" or Buzzer," "Lambaste" or "Praise" or, in a third execution, clicking on a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down icon.

The ads effectively brand Sun while positioning it as a company that facilitates sharing in all its forms. Viewers can make their voices heard while taking note that the unobtrusive company facilitating the interaction is Sun. 

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