Why NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson Is Throwing Haymakers at the Competition

CEO Behind Effort Bashing SAP and Sage

By Published on .

It's not much fun being on the receiving end of NetSuite's latest ad campaign.

In ads running in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, the cloud software company is bashing competitors SAP and Sage, going so far as to hint chief information officers who don't switch to NetSuite are risking their jobs.

In one ad, a hand holding a cell phone shows a mock text message conversation between what appears to be a chief executive officer and her CIO.

Netsuite advertisement
Netsuite advertisement

"You're tired," the CEO says.

"Darn right I'm tired. Tired of SAP!" the CIO responds.

"I meant FIRED! Stupid autocorrect!" the CEO says.

The ad campaign is the handiwork of NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson, who led the effort himself. NetSuite provides enterprise resource planning software and Mr. Nelson said it's necessary to run bold advertisements due to the complexity of migrating to a new platform. Netsuite, which worked with Los Angeles-based Lazaroff, Dundore and Associates on the campaign, spent just over $3.5 million on advertising in 2013, according to Kantar Media.

"The replacement of the ERP system is like a heart transplant because that is where all of the company's core business data, financial data, customer data resides," Mr. Nelson said. "I think you have to be straight up and honest with the customers in that particular area."

The idea for the SAP ad came to Mr. Nelson after he spoke with a company that had actually fired its CIO after that person had implemented SAP, he said.

Another ad targeting Sage published on the day its new CEO, Stephen Kelly, assumed the job. Mr. Nelson tweeted a welcoming of sorts to Mr. Kelly, highlighting the ad.

When asked which company might be in NetSuite's cross-hairs next, Mr. Nelson declined to say. "I haven't had my eureka moment," he said.

Mr. Nelson is a disciple of Larry Ellison, and clearly learned a thing or two from the Oracle founder famous for taking shots at the competition.

"He and I did ads between 1992 and 1996," said Mr. Nelson, Oracle's former VP-world wide marketing, referring to Mr. Ellison. "I'm sure there's some influence there."

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