Dawn of the b-to-b millennium?

By Published on .

Most Popular
As we get ready to wrap up 1999--and possibly this century and millennium, depending on how you reckon time--it's human nature to stop and assess how far we've come.

If you look at the past year, it's been a booming time for business-to-business. Take IBM Corp., for example.

Incorporated in 1911, IBM is an old company that's spending a lot of time and money telling people that it's at the forefront of technology today. In fact, it's also leading the way when it comes to marketing, judging from the reach of its efforts.

In our chart of the Top 100 Business-to-Business Advertisers, overall spending jumped to $5.8 billion, up roughly 14% from the previous year.

Leading the pack this year is IBM Corp., which took first place from AT&T for the first time since 1994. IBM spent $293 million, with AT&T following at $289 million. While Microsoft Corp., another high-tech company, took third, two financial companies--First Union Corp. and American Express Co.--rounded out the top five b-to-b ad spenders and bumped last year's No. 3 advertiser, Compaq Computer Corp., and No. 4, SBC Communications, further down the top 10.

When it comes to advertising, IBM is doing an outstanding job, and not just in spending and placement. As you can see on Page 44 of this issue, IBM is also the winner of the 16th annual Sawyer Award, Business Marketing's honor for best ad effort of the year. The winning campaign includes print and broadcast and supports the company's e-business effort. The effort was spearheaded by Steve Hayden, president of worldwide brand services for IBM at Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

Yet IBM is just one example, albeit an outstanding one, of how strong b-to-b is right now--and how important the b-to-b arena is to top companies.

 As we prepare for the year 2000, financial services are joining telecommunications and high-tech companies in fueling the b-to-b boom. Among this year's top 100 b-to-b advertisers, 31 are financial services and insurance companies, and, according to Business Marketing reporter Philip Clark, others in this area are seeing the increasing need to join the advertising fray.

Plus, with the advent of new players, everyone is looking for new ways to reach the b-to-b market. As a result, we're seeing more b-to-b spending in traditional consumer venues such as television and the consumer press.

According to our data, business publications attracted the largest share of b-to-b advertising dollars, drawing $1.2 billion of the total b-to-b ad pie. Next, at $813 million, were local newspapers, followed by spot television ($800 million) and consumer magazines ($749 million).

As we've seen increasingly this year, marketers are more willing to take risks, to be a bit more daring in spending their money, if they believe it will pay off.

This is not to say they're being foolhardy, however. If anything, they're under more pressure than ever to ensure the return on the marketing investment in this highly competitive arena, and that's a tough task in even the best of situations.

Overall, this is a golden time for business-to-business marketing. It's growing in size and in importance. And it's gaining respect, as companies lean more on their marketing departments in an effort to push their boundaries.

And that's how far we've come in just the last year or so.

If you go back to 1899, we've come a whole lot further. The past 100 years have seen the birth of business-to-business marketing, along with the spread of the transportation and communications networks that made its growth possible. For b-to-b, the century sprang from strong industrial roots and the early trade magazines that grew to serve those industries.

Today, as we move forward in a high-tech economy, those industrial companies are adapting to the changes that have transformed this century and how we do business, as well as how we live. From assembly lines to automation to the Internet, a lot has changed in the past 100 years, but perhaps not as much as we'd like to believe.

And as for how far we've come in the past 1,000 years, well, let's just say that if it weren't for the invention of the printing press, the modern b-to-b marketing department's mission statement would not be worth the parchment upon which it was inscribed, nor the cost of hiring the monk to wield the quill.

From all of us at Business Marketing, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season full of good cheer and free of all Y2K glitches. Send comments and questions to Karen Egolf at

In this article: