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IBM uses viral campaign to save Mr. Fong

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To promote its Rational Team Concert collaboration product to the IT developer community, IBM Corp. rolled out a viral marketing campaign featuring a character dubbed Mr. Fong, who is lost in space and needs help reconnecting with his team.

“We wanted to take advantage of Web 2.0 functionality, just as the product does,” said Kathy Mandelstein, director of worldwide marketing programs for IBM Software Group’s Rational brand.

“Rational Team Concert is the first product based on the Jazz technology platform (for collaborative software delivery), and we wanted to do something very different with this campaign,” she added.

Mr. Fong is a character who first appeared in an IBM print ad in June, which also featured established IT characters Ned and Gil.

In the ad, Mr. Fong is a software developer sitting behind a desk on the moon, where Ned and Gil have ended up while searching for their software team.

“For the new campaign, we took Mr. Fong out from behind the desk and brought him to life. We wanted to demonstrate the fact that Rational Team Concert allows developers to collaborate no matter where they sit,” Mandelstein said.

The campaign is a viral effort that includes e-mail, a microsite, online videos and social networking sites. It was created by Ogilvy North America, New York.

To promote the campaign, IBM sent e-mail to software developers, with a link to a video in which Mr. Fong calls for help to be reconnected to his software team.

IBM is also featuring the video distress call on its own Web site, partner sites, YouTube and other video sharing sites.

Users can go to a microsite at connectmrfong.com and help him find his way back to his team by clicking on various objects, such as a cellphone, a video game joystick, a Post-it note and a package of Rational software (the right choice).

Also on the site, users can download a trial version of Rational Team Concert software.

“Demand generation has changed,” said Vicki Azarian, creative director at Ogilvy North America. “We really took advantage of creativity within the e-mail space and social networking sites to create a character and spread him out over the Web.”

For Mr. Fong, Ogilvy created a Facebook page where users can link to his videos, as well as profiles on MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites.

So far, the campaign is delivering good results. The e-mail open rate is 16%, and the click-through rate to the videos is 1.5%, both of which are higher than the industry average.

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