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"Solutions for a small planet"-the theme of IBM's 1-year-old branding campaign-has been providing more solutions to portfolio managers than computer users. While Big Blue's revenues are up by 9% since the arrival of CEO Louis V. Gerstner Jr., its stock price has more than doubled.

No leading New York Stock Exchange corporation outdid IBM in '95 for improving its reputation on Wall Street, according to the second annual Survey of Shareholders Perception of Corporate America.

The biggest strides were in "provides good return to the shareholders," "is a well managed company" and "is not too bureaucratic." In each one of these areas, IBM showed a gain of 20 points or more between 1994 and 1995. Those results moved IBM from its 18th ranking among the top 20 corporations in 1994 to 12th a year later. It has also gotten past the "vision thing"-or lack of one-by posting a 17% gain in "has a long-term vision."

The strides aren't a complete surprise on Madison Avenue given the dual objectives of "branding" campaigns: to sell stock like a corporate campaign and to sell products. Such campaigns are special hybrids, designed to be equally effective to the readers of The Wall Street Journal as well as the PC World or on "Seinfeld."

It's as the latter-a product campaign-that "Solutions" has yet to connect. Despite its international scenarios, the campaign from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, failed to crack last year's Top 100 list of Outstanding Campaigns.

Part of the problem may be the category. Consumers still don't relate to computers the same way they do to soft drinks. So they tune out computer commercials in the same way people without pets tune out pet food commercials.

Even the early '80s IBM campaign featuring a Charlie Chaplin look-alike to promote user friendliness (from Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein) was never able to break through as an Outstanding TV Campaign.

Mr. Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests, and he welcomes feedback. Write him at 107 E. 31st St., New York 10016, or fax him at (212) 689-0210. Campaign Clout reports on consumer response to current advertising.

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