"You will see very strong support from us next year," said Chairman-CEO Lawrence Weinbach. "Whether that's $30 or $40 or $50 [million], we haven't put our budgets together."
Next year's budget will be set in mid-December after analyzing how ads change perceptions of customers, potential customers and Wall Street, he said, and "the more kudos, the higher the budget next year."
By comparison, Unisys' annual global ad budget was about $27 million for 1998 and 1997.
The new campaign from Bozell Worldwide, New York, began Sept. 24, a year and a day after Mr. Weinbach came aboard to fix long-languishing Unisys.
The fourth-quarter effort will be split about evenly between U.S. and non-U.S. placements, said Kerry Baker, advertising programs director. Two-thirds will go into print, with the rest in TV. Ads will run in 15 countries plus some panregional publications and TV networks.
The offbeat, tongue-in-cheek campaign is decidedly un-Unisys. Six print ads and two :30s show Unisys employees thinking about their clients during off-hours. The employee's head is a computer monitor showing some aspect of a client's business.
In a TV spot, a woman dances to salsa music even as her mind -- her computer-monitor head -- is occupied with a pressing client problem. She solves it while dancing the night away, and her real head appears. The tagline: "We eat, sleep and drink this stuff."
Ads will run in 22 languages; the tag will run in 14, since some countries opted to use English.
"You're in a category where there are a lot of people trying to talk to the same people that we are," said Jon Saunders, Bozell senior partner-creative director. "You have to do something that's going to stop people."
Unisys, formed by the 1986 merger of Burroughs Corp. and Sperry Corp., has sputtered through restructurings, years of flat revenue and restagings that have failed to take hold. But revenue has edged up, and profits and its stock price have rebounded during the past year, giving credibility to a turnaround play by Mr. Weinbach, former managing partner of Andersen Worldwide.
He now is out to change perceptions, since image problems showed up in extensive research. Many people peg Unisys as an old mainframe company; others don't know what Unisys sells.
The computer services and hardware company still makes mainframes, now referred to by the trendy name of "enterprise servers." But 63% of its $6.6 billion in revenue last year came from computer services, such as providing systems integration and handling customer repairs for clients including Dell Computer Corp. and Cisco Systems.
"When I first came here, nobody knew we were in the services business," said Mr. Weinbach.
That's despite years of ads that talked about Unisys services.
Unisys is betting the service story comes through in the new ads.