IBM SPOTLIGHTS LITTLE GUYS FOR OIYMPICS: VIGNETTES ALSO SHOW COMPANY'S TECHNOLOGY AT GAMES

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IBM Corp. is betting that a $50 million Olympics ad campaign celebrating unsung heroes will make viewers feel good about IBM -- and better about IBM technology.

IBM and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, hope to grab viewers with a series of first-person vignettes featuring Olympic athletes and IBM employees running the technology at the Winter Games.

TV commercials feature engaging and often funny stories of little-known athletes bound for Nagano, Japan, from small countries in small sports -- a skier from Cyprus, a luger from Bermuda. "Look for me," each athlete concludes.

CELEBRATING THE OLYMPICS

Maureen McGuire, IBM VP-marketing communications, said the campaign has two tasks: Celebrate the Olympics spirit and explain why viewers should care about what IBM is doing for the Games.

In this global campaign, only one spot features an American, biathlete Stacey Wooley. Other spots tell the stories of IBM-ers in Nagano.

The campaign was created by Steve Hayden, O&M president of IBM Worldwide Brand Services, and Creative Directors Chris Wall and Susan Westre.

Most of the budget will be spent during the Games' 17-day run, though some money went for a campaign that started late last year in Japan.

MORE THAN HALF FOR U.S.

More than half the $50 million will be spent in the U.S., including extensive time on CBS and TNT telecasts; ads in Sports Illustrated, Time, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today; and 22 Web executions.

The TV campaign also will run in Europe, Canada and Australia; IBM developed a separate similar campaign to run in Japan.

All advertising steers consumers to the IBM-created Olympics Web site (www.nagano.olympic.org).

With the Olympics telecasts being tape-delayed for the U.S. and some other regions, IBM expects the site to get heavy traffic as fans seek immediate results.

One TV spot shows a man in Norway scanning the Web site at 4:30 a.m., then running outside to awaken neighbors with, "We won!"

In the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, IBM was slammed in the media for the failure of some of its technology -- including systems that fed game results to the press.

Research IBM did after the event drew an interesting conclusion: Tech-savvy business customers were empathetic that systems can fail, and were more interested in how IBM reacted to get things fixed.

But IBM wants neither bad press nor customer empathy in Nagano; it said the Games' technology is the most tested in the history of the Olympics.

DIFFERENT AUDIENCES

IBM and O&M produced a range of spots appealing to different groups, recognizing, for example, that some events will have a large female or youth audience.

Overall, Ms. McGuire said the Olympics offer IBM a way to reach a younger, sports-oriented audience, which is important as IBM works to make itself relevant to a new generation.

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