IBM takes direct aim at rival Sun in fresh ads

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IBM Corp.'s new banner advertising campaign for servers is a shot over the bow at archrival Sun Microsystems that literally results in a solar eclipse.

The estimated $5 million interactive effort, which broke July 14, uses Macromedia's Flash technology and animation to blot out the icon used by Sun, whose mantra is "We're the dot in dot-com."

The provocatively playful banner effort, designed to support IBM's newly fortified midrange Unix server line, represents Big Blue's most direct assault to date on Sun.

"It's the most directly competitive campaign that we've ever done in the context of the Web," said Lauren Flaherty, VP-integrated marketing communications for IBM's Enterprise Systems Group.

IBM has been a laggard in the $30 billion Unix server space, where it competes primarily with Sun and Hewlett-Packard Co. However, according to a recent International Data Corp. report, IBM has overtaken Sun in the mid-range server segment, capturing 25% of the worldwide market compared to Sun's 21%.

"We've got a really competitive product line now and the medium--banners--gives customers the opportunity to get what they want, head-to-head comparisons," Ms. Flaherty said.


The banners, created by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide's Ogilvy Interactive, New York, target information technology decisionmakers. They offer product information and even match prospects with particular products.

The banners offer potential customers server specifications and side-by-side comparisons with Sun's product line. Ad copy reads: "IBM's new Unix servers lead the Net's next generation" and "Click the sun you want to eclipse."

Customers can click to view and print product specifications, compare products and connect with a sales rep by phone to make a purchase.


Banners running on more than a dozen sites including, and Wall Street Journal Interactive employ Flash technology and Sun's Java script. Ironically, IBM relies on Sun technology to challenge Sun, though it also must be noted that Java script is commonly used by interactive ad agencies. Regardless, the effect grabs attention.

"It's fairly robust in the sense that we're using both a certain amount of animation in order to create an evocative look and feel. We're also enabling a certain amount of opt-in ability," said Dan Chichester, an associate creative director at Ogilvy Interactive who was on the team that created the banners.

Plus, customers get a lot of information without having to leave the site, said Steve Hayden, president of brand services on IBM at Ogilvy & Mather.

The rich-media Web effort has the look, feel and tone of IBM's Magic Box server campaign, but it's also moving beyond that campaign as the company prepares for new product launches.

The banner effort is supplemented by print and outdoor executions, along with one TV spot, that fall within the scope of the company's "Drive to Web" initiative. The banner ad blitz will continue through the summer.

Copyright July 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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