Going for gold in b-to-b marketing

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DHL, the express delivery and logistics company, grabbed the gold among b-to-b companies that advertised during the more than 1,200 hours of televised Olympics coverage.

DHL impressed our judges with brightly produced, humorous 10-second spots that deftly associated the company with the buoyant Olympic spirit. Unlike the other b-to-b spots we encountered during the 14-day marathon of advertising and athletic competition, DHL produced spots especially for the Olympics. It also ran 30-second spots, which debuted in July and take on competitors FedEx and UPS, during the Olympics.

And unlike some of the Olympic advertising we've seen in years past, DHL's spots were devoid of the righteous, self-important tone that advertisers tend to adopt when they become Olympic sponsors. DHL got it just right. In one 10-second spot, a pair of Olympic cyclists spin their wheels on the ramp of a DHL truck while the driver tosses them water bottles.

In another spot, a long jumper soars into a landing pit of packing peanuts as a pair of DHL employees stand at the ready with their rakes to direct more packing peanuts into the pit. In yet another, a pole vaulter lands on a bed of bubble wrap as DHL employees stand by to make sure everything is going smoothly. The narrator intones that "DHL is proud to support the U.S. Olympic team any way we can."

A tiny set of Olympic rings appears on the end frame of each of the spots to help reinforce DHL's association with the 2004 Olympics, which fortunately for all advertisers proved to be peaceful.

No other b-to-b advertiser came close to DHL's Olympic work. Other b-to-b advertising we viewed on the NBC flagship was from such companies as Xerox, AT&T, SBC, Samsung and GE-NBC Universal's co-parent. If we missed anyone amid the nearly 14,000 commercials shown during the Olympics, we apologize. We need our rest, too.

While not specifically pegged to the Olympics, GE's spots for such units as its Healthcare or Commercial Finance were both smart and entertaining. Our favorite was a spot for GE Healthcare that depicted a brain surgeon who slips into a reverie in the operating room. The spot cuts to the classic sci-fi film "Fantastic Voyage." The surgeon envisions a scene in which the crew members of the ship in the movie zap a trouble spot with their laser guns, much the way surgeons can do thanks to the advances in medical imaging.

The scene from the movie transitions back to the surgical suite, where one of the surgeon's assistants quizzically notes, "You just told us to go back to the ship." As the surgeon snaps out of it, the narrator adds that GE Healthcare's medical imaging allows doctors to navigate a patient's brain in ways that seem like science fiction.

In another spot, this one touting GE's advances in harnessing the power of the wind to reduce reliance on traditional sources of energy, a crew of grizzled Vikings strains to row their ship. Gliding past their ship is a craft under full sail. The look on the Vikings' faces is priceless as they ponder the power of the wind. GE cops a silver for its work.

SBC earns a bronze for a slickly produced spot that shows how its network can stitch together a solution for a corporate collaboration in Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles. SBC comes across in the ad as a company that can make things happen for clients with complex communications problems.

AT&T finished out of the medal competition with a spot for its networking services that featured a talking Trojan horse. That's borrowed interest that simply didn't work. M

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