BlackBerry Taps B-to-B Agency Gyro to Remake Its Brand

With 'Work Wide' Campaign, the Fallen Smartphone Champ Promotes a New Device, Enterprise Image

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BlackBerry wants to resurrect itself as a business brand. And it has tapped a top b-to-b agency to lead the charge.

Following a pitch, BlackBerry selected gyro as its global agency of record to promote BlackBerry Passport, its first new handset under CEO John Chen. The agency will also be responsible for communicating the company's new focus on enterprise software and services.

BlackBerry previously worked with BBDO New York and London.

The dethroned smartphone brand picked gyro for its flexibility and international scope, said Robert Glen, senior director of global brand marketing at BlackBerry. Gyro, which has run campaigns for HP and SAP, will spread its BlackBerry work across six offices spanning the globe. On Wednesday, the agency announced plans to acquire its French competitor Ailleurs Exactement.

Gyro's appointment comes on the heels of a massive overhaul at the device manufacturer, which recently swapped its CEO, COO and CMO amid a bid to reshape its business around enterprise solutions. "The No. 1 objective is making BlackBerry synonymous with work," Mark Wilson, the senior VP-marketing, who began in January, told Ad Age in July.

Christoph Becker, CEO of gyro, called his task of re-launching the brand "any advertiser's dream." The campaign, dubbed "Work Wide," leans on the Passport's broad screen -- built for business functions like reading email and spreadsheets -- and the declaration the device is more secure than other smartphones. "If you're not doing serious business, then you can take any other phone," Mr. Becker said.

Still, Mr. Becker noted the pitch isn't aimed at replacing consumer's smartphones; they can still have an iPhone for play and a BlackBerry for work. That keeps the company out of the pitched battle in the category between Apple, Samsung and leaner competitors. "That war is not on their doorstep," Mr. Becker said.

With Passport's debut, BlackBerry saw a welcome boost, announcing that it sold 200,000 devices in the first week. Its most recent quarterly earnings beat estimates. And some analysts see a brighter future for the firm with its software and services, which accounted for 54% of its revenue last quarter. Conversely, Apple generated 88% of its revenue from hardware.

Others are less optimistic. Jean-Louis Gassée, a venture capitalist (and former Apple executive), wrote that "[Mr.] Chen's endgame is to sell the company, either whole or, more likely, in parts."

Remaking BlackBerry is a mammoth task. It is still widely perceived as outdated. And bring-your-own-device improvements have made companies more comfortable with employees using personal smartphones. In July, Apple announced a partnership with IBM to build apps tailored to enterprise, a huge blow to BlackBerry.

"Apple felt that they had an inefficiency in their enterprise story," Mr. Glen said. "It reinforces our story that enterprise is a great market to be in."

BlackBerry spent $95 million in measured media last year, according to figures from Kantar Media. In 2010, the year Apple hurdled the company in smartphone shipments, per IDC, Blackberry (then R.I.M.) spent $161 million in measured media.

A portion of BlackBerry's 2013 spending went to expenses related to Alicia Keys, the singer who was named global creative director for the company. Ms. Keys is no longer with BlackBerry, Mr. Glen said. Instead, the company is relying on testimonials from dedicated celebrity users, like Formula One racer Nico Roseberg and media titan Arianna Huffington.

"This is not only about launching a brand; this all about bringing an entire company back," said Mr. Becker. "Who doesn't like a good comeback?"

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