BtoB's Best Creative: IBM Corp.

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People like a good story, so advertising is especially effective when a campaign features characters that endure trials and tribulations to which the target audience can relate. Such is the case with IBM's "Take Back Control" campaign, an extensive integrated effort that promotes the company's systems and software products by telling the stories of Ned, a likeable IT guy, and Gil, a bumbling senior manager.

BtoB chose the online component of this campaign as the best in its category because it does a particularly good job of getting the target audience to interact with the ads. The campaign included various interactive flash ads that drove those who clicked to one of two Web sites.

The campaign centers on Ned and Gil, telling the story of their daily IT struggles in bloglike entries. For instance, a banner ad for IBM's Tivoli reads, "day 38_IT complexities are not just out of control, they're now taking hostages." The accompanying image shows Gil tangled in a mess of wires that the viewer can click on to stretch and then release (much the way you would a rubber band), sending Gil bouncing about the banner.

Another ad, also for day 38, shows Gil frozen into a giant ice cube. Copy reads: "Our lack of business agility has reached an absurd degree. A very negative degree. We need a heat wave …" Viewers can click on a flame-thrower to save Gil by defrosting him.

"These characters are very human, and they don't put IT life up on a pedestal or in a false reality; they just deal with the realities that are quite funny and painful for the audience," said Aaron Griffiths, group creative director at Ogilvy & Mather. "[Because the ads are] interactive, you actually let people participate in problems that in their daily lives aren't fun at all. They get to laugh at their own situation a bit."

Another banner features a game in which viewers move their keyboard's arrows to direct Ned to different levels of an office, helping him to deploy IBM computer storage servers to an increasing number of demanding co-workers while the clock ticks away. When the viewer/ player inevitably fails to deliver the servers to meet the co-workers' increased storage demands, the game ends and the viewer is instructed to "Don't just add storage capacity. Use it."

The campaign's interactive ads, however, aren't all fun and no substance. After interacting with the ads, viewers can access extensive information about IBM's products at the campaign Web sites. The audience gets a few chuckles and a little break from reality—all while getting a strong product message about how IBM can solve IT problems. It's a clever campaign that takes full advantage of the interactive medium. 

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