IBM's 'Smarter Planet' evolves

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IBM Corp. last month introduced three new TV commercials and related online work as part of its ongoing “Smarter Planet” initiative, focusing on the company's core capabilities in analytics, e-commerce and cloud computing. The spots, created by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, broke on NBC during broadcasts of NFL playoff games, and will continue to run on broadcast and cable networks into the spring. The campaign budget was undisclosed. “We are trying to take some very complicated things—like cloud computing, analytics and smarter commerce—and make them simpler to understand for business leaders,” said Ann Rubin, VP-brand expression and global advertising at IBM. The campaign is aimed at business decision-makers, IT professionals, government leaders and other “forward thinkers,” Rubin said. “The idea of how to better succeed on a "Smarter Planet' can be hard to understand,” she said. “Smarter Planet” is a business platform IBM introduced in November 2008 to show how the company is helping make the world better through intelligent, connected systems. “The technology products are very complex, and leaders need to understand how to use analytics, data and cloud computing more effectively. We are doing some different things creatively,” Rubin said. For example, IBM uses its own employees in the TV commercials, which blend live-action video with computer-generated animation to tell stories about IBM products. IBM also worked with digital animation company PsyOp, New York, on the spots. One commercial, “Split Second,” focuses on IBM's analytics business. It begins with an image of a stopwatch and a voice-over that says, “A second is a very long time.” The spot then zooms in on the ticking second hand and uses digital animation to show a variety of scenes that take place within the mechanism of the stopwatch. For example, the second hand transforms into a train track with a high-speed train rushing down it as voice-over says: “Long enough for a train track in Taiwan to sense a malfunction and alert the operators.” The spot then zooms in on a blinking sensor on the train track, which transforms into a city at night with voice-over saying: “ ... or to spot a power outage in Texas before it spreads.” The scene transforms again, this time into a graphic depicting data in 3D bar charts with voice-over saying: “... or to help a global finance company pinpoint fraud and protect customers.” The action then pulls back from the stopwatch to show Simon Thomas, VP-business analytics at IBM, holding the stopwatch and saying: “Smarter analytics is helping companies all over the world predict what's coming and act on it now.” Ryan Blank, group creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, said, “Simon is a real IBMer. We wanted to take IBM's culture and inspiration points to tell real stories. Simon is actually evangelizing analytics in the business.” Another spot, “All in the Cloud,” begins with an animated scene of a laboratory in Berlin that is using supercomputing to fight cancer. The scene then transforms into an industrial city in China that has been changed into a high-tech center using technology. A final scene shows a British town that has cut emissions by 80% using a smart grid. As in the first spot, the scene then pulls away from the animation through a computer monitor into an actual design studio in Malaysia, as IBMer Lauren States, VP-cloud computing, says: “Transforming business through the cloud. That's what I'm working on.” The third spot, “Ahead of Demand,” shows a box opening up to illustrate the different elements of the supply chain, from ordering to shipping to inventory control. Once again using computer animation, the spot highlights different aspects of the business, then zooms out of the box to show IBMer Steve Cowley, VP-solution sales, who says: “Some companies have increased revenue up to 50% with help from Smarter Commerce [software].” IBM expanded these spots on its website,, including long-form video interviews with the IBMers featured in the TV spots, animated graphics, case studies and information about IBM solutions.
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