SECRET TO IBM'S 'MAGIC BOX' ADS: SERVER AS BRAND HAND LETTERING, EXOTIC LOCATIONS CREATE TEXTURES IN CAMPAIGN FOR LEADER BIG BLUE

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IBM Corp., that paragon of corporate rectitude, takes another step forward in shedding its buttoned-down image with a stylish new campaign for, of all products, servers.

The integrated effort from Ogilvy & Mather's New York office, which broke June 30, includes an evocative 60-second TV spot directed by Joe Pytka and a powerful, visually striking eight-page newspaper insert that appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Additional elements will include page magazine ads, outdoor boards, wild postings in major cities, rich media Web banners and interstitials, a dedicated Web site, direct mail and collateral.

IBM servers are positioned as a "magic box" that holds the key to the untold secrets of the Web-"What if there was a box that contained all the answers to all the questions you've ever had?" read the opening lines of the newspaper insert.

WHAT RULES THE WEB

Arcane though they may be to the average consumer, servers rule the Web, said Chris Wall, O&M's co-creative director on the IBM business and one of the copywriters on the campaign.

"[Servers] haven't gotten much credit for the Web revolution," Mr. Wall said, "even though the Web is one big server.

"People tend to see servers as a commodity," he continued, hence the dual strategy of raising IBM's profile as the world's largest server company and making what a server does not only understandable but somehow human.

An integral part of the message is that when it comes to servers, IBM makes the best.

"Reliability is kind of a dull topic," Mr. Wall noted, "but if your server is down, you're out of business."

AGENCY: IT'S NOT YOUR BROWSER

The campaign grew out of the agency's realization that, in the world of e-commerce, "your server is your brand," he noted. "It determines what your customer experience is like, not your browser."

The agency started developing the work before approaching the client. The cover shot of the insert was photographed in Paris and an entire integrated presentation was assembled and pitched to IBM executives in January.

According to Mr. Wall, they liked the concept and approved production of the print and TV, which was accomplished in a month and a half.

The print reads like a cross between an image campaign and retail advertising. There's lots of information about models and product attributes, all under the umbrella concept of the server as the Web's essential gray matter.

The target audience ranges from chief information officers to small-business owners-"Every company of every size will be buying a server or the services of a server," Mr. Wall said.

One of the more striking elements is the use of hand-lettered type and, in the insert, the inclusion of simple, almost childlike pen and ink illustrations.

The insert employs what seems at first to be an incongruous mix of graphic elements-lush photos shot by Stephan Ruiz that show people interacting with magic boxes, set against a traditional layout of typeset headlines and body copy broken up by hand-lettered lines and the aforementioned quirky illustrations.

Art Director Tony Arefin, who was co-creative director on the project along with Mr. Wall and Steve Hayden, president of worldwide brand services-creative head on IBM at O&M, New York, said the hand lettering and illustrations, done by British illustrator Paul Davis, were a vital element of the print and TV work.

AVOIDING 'GEEKSPEAK'

Mr. Arefin wanted to make the print ads "approachable, not geek-speak or technospeak" and said the use of diverse graphic elements wasn't "style for the sake of style" but a key part of making it more accessible.

Mr. Pytka was deeply involved in creating the TV, said Executive Producer Lee Weiss.

Working from a loose script and a copy of the print insert, the director "figured out how to wrap it up," she said.

Shot on locations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S., the :60 simply shows IBM servers in incongruous locations such as train stations, schoolyards and monasteries. In each, a line of hand-lettered type appears on screen; there's no voice-over and no dialogue.

Quietly emotional, the work reflects Mr. Pytka's depth of skill as a cinematographer and is driven by a haunting music track composed on a crushing, 24-hour deadline by Steven Dewey of the sound design shop Machine Head in Venice, Calif.

'A QUALITY OF SCALE'

Mr. Wall said the use of such exotic locations was designed to "add a quality of scale. . . . It's about textures and different cultures-all the things that go into a server."

IBM expressed some anxiety about the work, but the client also has given the agency "a tremendous amount" of creative freedom and it has been "encouraged to be proactive," Mr. Wall said.

He credited IBM's Lauren Flaherty, VP-integrated marketing for the server group, with approving the work.

"Magic Box" represents an effort to present IBM in a younger, more contemporary light, but Mr. Wall admitted it must preserve a "delicate balance. You want to refresh who you are, but still present your strengths to a modern audience."

Additional art directing credits go to Staci MacKenzie and Simone Lewis, and additional copywriting credits to Tom Bagot. Editing credits for the TV spot go

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