Monthly Archives: September 2011

IBM and ESPN 3: Using social media to tell the world what they mean by “Let’s build a smarter planet.”


You’ve heard me ask “What does IBM sell?”  Sure, *I* know what they sell.  But my point is: what do they do to make sure the average consumer knows?
Well, on this idle Saturday afternoon, while watching my Gators on ESPN 3 crush UAB, *BAM*, there it was – A smarter planet ad on ESPN 3 with a twist: it ended with a URL: http://www.youtube.com/ibm
What’s the big deal?  First, IBM is talking to consumers.  That’s right, beer-drinking, college football-watching average America.  Second, this is ESPN 3.  In other words, the webcast version of ESPN.  So anyone watching that ad is already sitting at their computer.  I don’t know about smarter planet, but certainly smarter advertising.  So I went to check it out.  On my other monitor, of course.

What did I find there?  The first video was their 30-minute story: “IBM Centennial Film: They Were There – People who changed the way the world works”.  On the new youtube, you can have longer videos than the old 10-minute limit.  Of course, that doesn’t change the fact the the average attention span is somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes and the average time spent on a web page is 1 minute.  That was one of the driving reasons for the 10 minute limit in the first place.  The cool thing about youtube is that everyone can see the results.  It shows how many viewings each video gets.  So we will get to see just how successful the videos are.

The good news:  This video includes IBM founder Tom Watson’s answer to my question.  Retired IBMer Fred Brooks tells the story of how Thomas Watson Sr. used to go into the lab and ask some young engineer: “What do we sell?”
And the young man would say “punch cards sir.”
“NO, NO!” Watson replied.  “We sell a service that satisfies.”

Now the bad news:  This answer comes at 28:52 minutes into a 30:41 minute video.

But this video isn’t about what IBM sells anyway.  It’s about their past.  A good production, but wouldn’t it be more effective to lead with a short ad that builds on the *BAM* that the original ad made on ESPN 3?  Something that teases with a bit more details on what IBM has to offer today and how they will take MY company into the future and give ME an advantage over my competition?  To make ME a leader in a smarter planet?  End it with the viewer wanting to know more.  Make it a two minute video to fill those dead zone commercial breaks that don’t show anything for web viewers.  Just say:

Visit http://www.youtube.com/ibm the next time you see this:

ESPN 3

My compliments to IBM digital marketing.  (Maria, is this your doing?)  Now take it to the next level.

The video ends with the words of another IBMer: “You’ve got to stay alert and you’ve got to be nimble on your feet.  You’ve got to recognize that what was true yesterday will not be true tomorrow in terms of technology.”

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