IBM taps "Spinal Tap"

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IBM Corp. rocks with mock-rock group "Spinal Tap" in its Olympic ad campaign, breaking May 26 on the NBA telecast.

In the spot, viewers will overhear a conversation the satirical rockers are having on stage on how to cope with the logistics of a reunion tour they're embarking on. One comes up with a solution: Hire IBM, which he notes is helping run the Olympics and surely could take on a smaller project like a rock tour.

IBM and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, have created 30-sec. and 60-sec. versions of the spot.

More spots are in the work featuring "Spinal Tap," the centerpiece of IBM's TV brand campaign running through the summer games. IBM paid $40 million to be official worldwide information technology sponsor of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

"There will be a number of spots that you see `Spinal Tap' in promoting the value that we're bringing to the Olympics,'' an IBM spokesman said.

Why "Spinal Tap"?

``For one thing, you wouldn't expect it. And we think you will find it eye and ear catching,'' the spokesman said. ``People will be surprised to see that it's IBM.'' Because the rockers' conversation may be a hard to hear over the accompanying music, IBM provides subtitles, playing into the motif of its year-old ``Solutions for a small planet'' brand campaign.

IBM has been using humor and wit--a nun with a pager, surfer-speak--to cast aside Big Blue's stilted, uptight past. But using rock satirists to push the world's biggest computer maker is a bold step.

The debut spot features the hard-rocking impersonators' rendition of "Goat Boy," a song created for the commercial. Nonsensical lyrics about the boy's parentage and upbringing explain, "They creamed the corn when you were born, Goat Boy."

IBM may be taking a cue from rival Microsoft Corp., which featured music from the ``Rolling Stones'' in its Windows 95 campaign last fall and offers an eclectic mix of technofunk, kitsch pop and pseudo classical music in its current TV campaign about the Internet.

Digital Equipment Corp. also has used hard rock in its television advertising. Those in the know will recognize "Spinal Tap" as the group of satirists who came together years ago to create a mock rockumentary, "This is Spinal Tap." Those not in the know will simply see a cast of aging rockers.

The plot in the spot, alas, is faked. IBM's spokesman says Big Blue has no plans to sponsor a real tour of "Spinal Tap."

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