IBM picks 6 for interactive acc't

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IBM Corp. named six agencies to handle its $40 million-plus interactive account, wrapping up a plan begun four years ago to streamline its list of communications partners, with the goal of delivering a more consistent global brand image.

IBM reviewed more than 100 interactive agencies--including more than 60 incumbents--to come up with its revamped roster, effective Jan. 1. The winners: Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, Westport, Conn.; OgilvyOne, New York; Strategic Interactive Group, Boston; Studio Archetype, San Francisco; and R/GA Interactive and Think New Ideas, both New York.

The six shops will create and produce Web advertising and assist IBM's in-house staff in designing and creating IBM Web sites.

DIVVYING UP GLOBAL WORK

OgilvyOne, Strategic Interactive and Studio Archetype already were on the IBM roster, while the other three had handled IBM projects. OgilvyOne will continue to handle Web media buying.

IBM will divide global work among the six agencies as needed, rather than formally assigning the agencies to specific divisions or geographies.

The technology giant this year will invest an estimated $40 million of its $600 million global ad spending in Web ads. Although IBM's overall ad budget will be relatively flat next year, Web spending could grow to an estimated $50 million.

"The Web will continue to be a defining medium for us," said Marianne Caponnetto, IBM director of worldwide media strategy and operations.

IBM launched ibm.com in May 1994, the same month it hired Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide as global agency, and it bought the company's first banner ad the same year. IBM's Web site has exploded to 270,000 pages that get clicked on 1 million times a day, and ad spending growth puts IBM close to Microsoft Corp., the biggest Web advertiser.

The Web investment reflects IBM's resolve to redefine itself as an "e-business," the slogan it uses in advertising.

IBM, however, is proceeding carefully. Senior VP-Marketing Abby Kohnstamm is pressing agencies to prove Web ad spending is a smart investment and to show measurable results.

CENTRALIZING STRATEGY

IBM recently centralized Web strategy, design and production through its Enterprise Web Management unit and Web application development and Internet event production through its IBM Global Services operation. Web agencies will work both on ads and Web site efforts.

This was truly an interactive Web review: Agencies filled out questionnaires and posted work on a Web site set up for the review, slashing the volume of paper and meetings normally needed in a review of more than 100 agencies.

Although IBM handed O&M its entire global ad account, Ms. Caponnetto said IBM ruled out any thought of consolidating all interactive at one agency. The Web shops are just a few years old, she noted, "so everybody's got different strengths and weaknesses and different capabilities.

"We just feel that this is a dynamic medium. It is something that's changing on a monthly basis, if not weekly and daily," she said. "We wanted to have the best combination of partners to manage what's going to be a very high volume of work."

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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