"That was a defining moment for me thinking we needed to do something about consolidating our agencies," IBM Corp.'s VP-corporate marketing told a computer marketing conference here in late February.
The result came last May, when IBM abruptly fired its roster of close to 80 global ad agencies and consolidated its $500 million account at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York.
Ms. Kohnstamm and Steve Hayden, O&M president-worldwide brand services/IBM, defended the consistency of the agency's seemingly disparate campaigns to date, including PC ads with comedian Paul Reiser, frenetic OS/2 Warp software ads and good-humored image spots pitching "Solutions for a small planet."
"The commonality is human, approachable, addressing the individual," Mr. Hayden said.
IBM clearly sees "Solutions" as an answer to building a new image.
Ms. Kohnstamm said IBM this year will produce as many as 16 TV spots in the global campaign.
Ms. Kohnstamm and Mr. Hayden were among 156 top marketing and agency executives attending the IDG Global Summit, a conference sponsored by International Data Group, the world's largest publisher of computer periodicals.
It was a blue-chip roster; the 56 marketers represented in the room control 85% of the nation's computer revenues and 67% of global computer revenues, said IDG Chairman Patrick McGovern.
Global marketing was a hot topic, not surprising given that computer companies tend to sell the same products to similar buyers in different regions.
Companies must act globally: The U.S. accounts for just one-third of the estimated $420 billion world information-technology market, according to IDG.
But executing globally isn't easy.
Terri Holbrooke, VP-global communications at Novell, noted the software marketer's "Yes, it runs with NetWare" campaign ran for more than a year in Japan as "Hello, it runs with NetWare" before anyone noticed the mistake.
Something also got lost in IBM's first attempt at translating its "Solutions" line in Japan: "Answers that make people smaller."
The tech executives stressed the importance of employing technology to produce global marketing campaigns. Lotus Development Corp., for example, uses the popular Lotus Notes communications software to connect its global marketing staff.
But Liz King, director of corporate marketing at Microsoft Corp., said technology can't replace face-to-face meetings in getting all parties behind a global effort. "E-mail," Ms. King said, "doesn't suffice."