IBM CONSOLIDATES TRADE SHOW DUTIES AT 1 EVENT AGENCY: INTERACTIVE SHOP ROSTER MAY ALSO BE SLICED BACK

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IBM Corp., continuing to pare its marketing communications partners, has consolidated global exhibitions management with one company and is pondering whether to cut its list of interactive agencies down to a handful.

IBM today will announce it has hired George P. Johnson Co., an events agency in Auburn Hills, Mich., to design, execute and support all of IBM's trade shows worldwide. The shop is new to the IBM roster.

The computer giant is consolidating assignments formerly split among more than 50 exhibit agencies.

ECHOING '94

The move parallels IBM's decision in 1994 to consolidate its then estimated $500 million ad account at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, terminating some 80 agencies. Similarly, IBM this year cut the roster for its estimated $125 million direct marketing account to four from more than 30.

IBM is considering whether to review its roster of interactive agencies, though Abby Kohnstamm, VP-corporate marketing, said IBM hasn't yet made a decision to proceed with a review.

She said IBM now works with "several dozen" interactive shops.

"As we've found in these other areas, you don't find out how many you have until you decide to have less," she said.

It appears unlikely IBM would hire one interactive shop based on the volume of its work; IBM more likely would follow the model it went with in hiring several direct shops.

GOAL IS CONSISTENCY

On the trade show front, shifting to a single supplier should save time and money, and improve quality, said Jim Hasl, director of worldwide business shows and events. But Mr. Hasl's key goal is "to put a lot of marketing into our marketing events."

"I really do want to see consistent look and feel" in exhibits, complementing themes in IBM's advertising and other communications, he said.

For example, IBM's display at next week's PC Expo in New York will play off Ogilvy's "e-business tools" campaign.

IBM spends about $40 million a year on more than 1,000 business shows and events reaching tens of millions of customers, Mr. Hasl said.

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