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IBM aims to foster a ‘Smarter Planet’

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Chicago—Matt Preschern, VP-marketing, demand programs at IBM Corp., Wednesday discussed how the company’s Smarter Planet initiative, launched last fall, is a positive agenda in troubled times.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone,” Preschern said, pointing to economic realities including the global downturn, frozen credit markets, limited access to capital and energy shortfalls.

IBM started working on the Smarter Planet effort last year, before the bottom fell out of the economy.

“In the September/October time frame, our senior leadership team said, ‘Is this the right time to launch an agenda-setting campaign, or would it be perceived as something that is too heavy handed?’ ” Preschern said. “Eventually, we made a decision as a company that this is exactly the time for a company like IBM to get in the marketplace,” he said, pointing to issues such as the growing online audience, increasing connectedness and major global issues that need to be addressed.

So in November IBM launched Smarter Planet, an initiative designed to show that the company is developing products and services to help the planet economically, socially and technically, across industries including health care, energy, transportation and infrastructure.

It launched the effort with an integrated campaign including TV, print, online, radio, outdoor and social media.

But the effort is more than just an ad campaign, Preschern said, and it’s not just for IBM. As part of the initiative, IBM is building a network of partners to build “Smart Cities” that have more efficient transportation systems, power grids and technology.

For example, IBM held a conference in Berlin that was attended by government officials, business leaders and business partners, to talk about building a “Smart City” there.

“If we are serious about Smarter Planet, this cannot be IBM talking to you and IBM telling you what a smarter planet needs to look like. We need to build an entire ecosystem of partners, and the only way they will be interested is if we give them tools to engage in dialogue,” Preschern said.

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