With IBM's move last week to reorganize its global sales force by industries rather than just geography, Chairman-CEO Louis Gerstner Jr. is betting that industry experts will do a better job of consulting with and selling to customers.
"We have to step up our ability to help customers apply technology," Mr. Gerstner said in an employee e-mail. "So we're going to share our best ideas, resources and assets through a network of industry teams at country, regional and global levels."
The massive sales reorganization is unlikely to have a direct effect on advertising soon. But it's conceivable that IBM will do more industry-specific advertising. IBM and its major agencies-Lintas Worldwide, Wells Rich Greene BDDP and Merkley Newman Harty, all New York-weren't available to comment on that at press time.
Overall, the change in sales approach follows, rather than foreshadows, major changes in the way IBM advertises and markets products.
In recent months, Mr. Gerstner has centralized oversight of advertising at corporate headquarters.
Meanwhile, product divisions are implementing advertising more globally. Last week, the minicomputer division began its first worldwide ads.
Earlier, geographic units managed sales and advertising for IBM. Most industry-specific sales teams-insurance, finance and communications specialists, for example-will still report through geographic units, such as North America.
In implementing his turnaround master plan, Mr. Gerstner is moving forcefully to reglue Big Blue. One spinoff, IBM Personal Computer Co., likely will be tied more closely to the parent following the exit last week of its president, Robert Corrigan, and replacement by G. Richard Thoman, a confidante of Mr. Gerstner.
James Kimball and Tim Clark contributed to this story.