Sun, ZD agree on integrated Java deal

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In a fluid example of how tech companies seek and sell integrated marketing, Sun Microsystems has signed a three-year deal in which Ziff-Davis will run a Java developers show and Sun will consider a package of ZD products and services.

Under a firm contract, ZD Events, Needham, Mass., will run the JavaOne conference in San Francisco from 1999 to 2001. ZD has managed the Sun-owned worldwide developer conference each year since its start in 1996.

This kind of show-based deal demonstrates ZD's ability to craft integrated programs that don't start with the company's traditional print component.

Starts at $30 million

The three-year contract is estimated to be worth $30 million for the trade show alone. It could grow an estimated $1 million a year if Sun buys all of ZD's proposals, and more if Java partners buy in.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun agreed to consider a range of additional ideas that ZD will try to sell Sun and Sun's partners. The mix, still in development, will include offerings from ZD's events, print, Web, TV, research and training operations, with a goal to build on the "community" that descends on Moscone Center in San Francisco for the annual Java conference.

"We're moving into an era of integrated marketing," said George Paolini, director of marketing and strategy for Sun's Java Software division. "We both have recognized that there's a need beyond just producing an event to market this technology."

Under the deal, ZD will produce the show at virtually no cost to Sun, generating an estimated $30 million over three years from exhibitors, attendees and sponsorship.

It's a growing show that reflects how Java is maturing as a technology standard: JavaOne drew about 14,000 attendees, around half paid, in March, up from 8,000 in '97 and 6,000 in '96.

In addition, Sun will be able to buy into ZD's other proposed products at deeply discounted prices.

Mr. Paolini and Jeff Bruce, executive director of major accounts for ZD corporate sales, declined to discuss the financial arrangement.

Sun hasn't committed to buying the integrated offerings, but "it's pretty likely" it will take on some of them, Mr. Paolini said.

"We're definitely moving full speed ahead to work with [ZD] on an integrated marketing program of which the core, the main event, is JavaOne," Mr. Paolini said. "They've given us the proposal [for other components]; we're looking at it. We'll give them some responses to that, and then they'll come back with a revise on that. Some of them I'm positive will see the light of day."

ZD proposals

ZD has proposed a range of ideas, including:

  • Internet: A Java portal page directing ZDNet visitors to Java content; a Java channel on ZDNet, creating a destination for people interested in Java; special ad packages for Java partners.

  • Print: A quarterly advertorial report going to key ZD business and technical readers; a Java-sponsored special issue of PC Week around JavaOne.

  • Training: Technical training in Java over ZD University, ZD's online training service; a formal Java technical certification program that could be taken on the road.

  • Events: Additional Java-themed conferences, perhaps internationally.

  • Research: A proprietary database through ZD Market Intelligence on where and how customers use Java software, to help Sun and other Java developers make market decisions.

  • TV: Java-themed editorial content and infomercials on ZDTV, the ZD-affiliated cable channel.

    Among these, the only definite go is a Java portal page now in development.

    Serious partnership

    "We've agreed that these are good directions to go in," Mr. Bruce said. "What's interesting is that unlike a media [request for proposals] where everybody bids on something, this is just bundling a solution for our partner. We'll each hire people to be on this long term. It's a much deeper relationship."

    Added Mr. Paolini: "Both sides view this as a serious partnership. That means investment on both sides. Obviously the return for Ziff-Davis is they're going to run [JavaOne] for us."

    Sun didn't seek proposals from ZD rivals. That's not surprising since ZD already was running the show, and given that the show will remain the focal point even if ZD develops other pieces.

    This is the second integrated program developed by Sun and ZD; the media company last year did a promotion that included Java ads and 70% ad discounts for Java partners, all to promote Sun's "100% Pure Java" program. Mr. Paolini said the success of the show and last year's integrated program gave Sun the confidence to enter the new three-year pact.

    "In a typical relationship it's a client-vendor, where the client is telling the vendor what to do," Mr. Paolini said. "I do believe we have a partnership here" in which Sun and ZD will work together to promote the Java and JavaOne brands.

    The new program does not include Sun advertising; Sun manages advertising on a corporate basis through a separate relationship with ZD. Sun last year spent an estimated $8 million with ZD in print and about $1 million more with ZDNet.

    The lack of a print ad component makes the new integrated scheme more intriguing. ZD, having assembled a package of integrated offerings over the past few years, now is able to create an integrated program that in this case has a business show, not print advertising, as the centerpiece.

    It's becoming more common for advertisers to look beyond advertising.

    "Part of my role is to build marketing partnerships with the top 10 clients of Ziff-Davis," Mr. Bruce said. "Those conversations rarely if ever start with advertising these days. ... It's a whole new language, almost a whole new business for us. ... We're having conversations now that start with, `We have a marketing problem, you have a tremendous portfolio; how can you guys help us?' "

    Other tech media

    Though Sun signed its new deal with ZD, Mr. Paolini noted other tech media companies, including International Data Group, Miller Freeman and CMP Media, also are promoting integrated stories.

    "Everyone [in tech media] recognizes the need to have a fully integrated set of marketing programs for traditional publications, for online publications, for events and seminars," he said. "I think everyone recognizes it. What you really need to do is find the right mix for your audience."

    Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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