Home-run ads in a Series sweep

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B-to-b spots in this year's World Series coverage were about as rare as a Chicago White Sox championship. But, like the White Sox, who won the crown for the first time since 1917, the b-to-b sector put its best foot forward on a field dominated by consumer ads. B-to-b marketers presented several compelling spots during the course of the four-game series with the Houston Astros. 

 We focused on the third game of the series, which proved to be the longest game in World Series history. We apologize to any b-to-b advertisers we may have missed in the later innings (in the wee hours of the morning). We dozed a bit toward the end of the White Sox's 7 to 5 win.

B-to-b advertisers that maintained a steady presence during the Series were Sprint, IBM and DHL. We also saw b-to-b ads from Bank of America and MasterCard for small-business services.

Sprint hit a home run with a testimonial-style spot that featured George Surdu, the global director of IT for Ford Motor Co. In this lively, well-produced spot, Sprint tells the tale of how important it is for Ford's product engineers to be with the cars, be it on the test track or the assembly line. "We took out the desk phones and extended the workplace with Sprint Business," Surdu said.

No longer tethered to their desks, the engineers, armed with Sprint walkie-talkie phones, were on the firing line, he said. This "is helping us shorten the time from concept to showroom." A series of quick cuts showed product engineers using the Sprint phones in various locations.

It was an excellent way of showcasing the product and its ability to solve problems for a company like Ford. Testimonials, especially credible, well-scripted ones like this Sprint execution, carry enormous weight with an audience. "They say" advertising instead of chest-pounding "we say" advertising strikes a more resonant chord. Sprint, which uses a brilliant yellow color throughout its work, presented its logo and its "Yes you can" tagline on an end frame that was as arresting as the spot itself.

DHL, which reminds viewers in a longstanding ad that there's no crying in shipping, produced a hilarious spot of a golf ball factory that goes amok. At the outset of the spot, the plant manager appears to be enjoying an ordinary day as he pages through a newspaper in his office overlooking the factory floor. But his day quickly turns into an industrial nightmare as the manufacturing system goes haywire and golf balls turn into projectiles, hurtling throughout the plant. Workers scramble frantically to stay out of harm's way.

The plant manager grabs the phone and calls DHL to request a change in pickup plans from his facility. He talks to a DHL customer service agent who is working from the clean, well-organized space of her office. The contrast between her environment and her customer's chaotic workspace is striking. So, too, is her calm, reassuring demeanor versus that of her panic-stricken customer.

The DHL service rep and her friendly manner underscore DHL's theme that "customer service is back in the shipping business." The spot manages to both inform and entertain. (Another spot from this campaign, featuring various customer disservice examples to the tune of Dionne Warwick's "What the World Needs Now," won the best single TV spot category in BtoB's Best 2005.)

The third of this World Series Triple Crown was served up by IBM. The spot, part of the company's Help Desk campaign that BtoB named the best integrated campaign of the year in BtoB's Best 2005, improbably finds an IBM help desk rep at his post on the edge of a gridlocked expressway. A cop on his motorcycle roars to a halt at the front of the desk. "Are you the help desk?" he asks. "What seems to be the problem, officer?" responds the help desk guy. "Traffic," the cop tersely states.

The IBM man proposes a wireless solution to the officer. Moments later, the congestion is gone and traffic is zipping along. "Nice work," states the cop as he surveys the open road. "Just doing my job," says the help desk guy, sounding a little like Sgt. Joe Friday. Problem-solution. It doesn't get any better than that.

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