BtoB's Best Creative: Cisco Systems

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Simple, clear messages go a long way in b-to-b advertising, especially when they're delivered in an eye-catching way. Cisco Systems' "Powered By" integrated work, created by ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, grabbed BtoB's attention this year with a series of noteworthy ads that highlight how the company's networking technology helps not only businesses but also the people behind those businesses.

The campaign's print work is particularly striking, featuring compelling images well balanced with succinct copy to illustrate how Cisco is powering business in various industries and categories, such as transportation, shipping, health care, education and fashion.

One ad, for example, draws readers in with an image of the rolling green hills of a vineyard and the headline "a very fine year." Copy wastes no words in detailing how a family-owned vineyard can use a Cisco wireless solution to check everything from soil moisture to online orders. The simple images, copywriting and clean, sans-serif font of this and the other ads in the series present the kind of message to which b-to-b audiences are receptive: the no-nonsense, no-hyperbole, no-chest-thumping kind that communicates frankly about benefits and solutions.

The objective, said Dan Burrier, chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather, was to use the imagery to show that Cisco's network is everywhere. "We wanted people to see the ads and say, `I never saw the network in the vineyard or a field trip, I never saw the network on a fashion runway before,' " he said.

The campaign's TV work cleverly conveys the same idea: that Cisco helps professionals by enabling communications and eliminating stress. In one humorous spot, "Konnichiwa," a company's Chicago office tries—and fails—to connect with its Tokyo office by videoconference. For all their fancy technology, the parties on each end are reduced to banging on the TV screens in an attempt to get both voice and visual working simultaneously. The technical snafu taps into the inevitable frustration of intercontinental communication and presents Cisco as the hassle-free solution to the problem. The problem-solution combo is one of the oldest advertising tactics in the book, but it works as well as ever in connecting with the target audience. 

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