IBM Pays for System i5 Video Viral Marketing
March 19, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Well, the AS/400, iSeries, and System i community have been asking IBM to more widely distribute some of the wacky video marketing campaigns that it comes up with–and which are usually only shown at user group meetings to the OS/400 and i5/OS faithful–and it looks like last week Big Blue finally listened. The company launched a “viral video” marketing campaign for the System i5–well, sort of–on Google‘s YouTube site and is using that company’s AdSense automated advertising distribution system to place the four videos on Web sites.
Before I got the email from IBM public relations last week informing me of this video campaign, I knew something was up because many of the Google AdSense ads on the IT Jungle site had videos being served up from IBM in them. I have seen videos pop up from General Motors and Toyota in these slots before, and but IBM does not generally advertise in IT Jungle publications, so these ads immediately caught my eye. (We live and work in contention with the big IT players a lot of the time, so this comes as no big surprise to me.)
In any event, like many of you probably did last week, I watched the videos, and was happy to do so through the Google network since IT Jungle doesn’t have the same kind of server and network bandwidth as Google does–and not by a long shot. (I am laughing as I write that, by the way. Google has a million servers or so; we have a half dozen, and they are designed to be as small and cool as possible and to run at the maximum load for as much of the time as they can.) I am also happy to let IBM or Google serve these ads to you, so if you didn’t see them through AdSense ads, you can check out all four of the videos in the “IT Revenge” advertising campaign at this IBM link. You can also watch them on the YouTube site here.
As you can see, these four videos are part of the long-running “i want control” ad campaign, which apparently was put together by e.e. cummings, a poet from the turn of the last century who was too poor to buy a typewriter that did not have a broken shift key. And, who apparently took a shining to single-level storage and other architectural elements of the Fort Knox project at IBM before he died in 1967:
Any app lived in a pretty single store
Women and men (both little and small)
Anyway, here’s the official description from IBM of the viral video campaign:
“This month, IBM System i launched four ‘IT Revenge’ viral videos on YouTube. After years of illegal instructions and flagrant systems errors, guru meditations, and fatal exceptions, three systems administrators seek solace in the desert. Each video documents a specific form of revenge as our heroes strike back at the buggy, patch-ridden servers that have plagued them for so long. The ‘IT Revenge’ series is part of the ‘i want control’ campaign, a broader effort to demonstrate the continued relevance of the IBM System i to a younger generation of IT professionals (the ‘Intel Generation’). Leveraging a combination of traditional and non-traditional advertising, the ‘i want control’ campaign encourages the Intel Generation to visit a dynamic forum where they can participate in a dialogue with real System i users.”
A few comments and criticisms are in order, but one general comment to start: This is closer to the kind of marketing that we have all been asking for than anything we have ever seen from IBM. So kudos to marketing for finally listening.
But, but, but. There’s always a but, and in this case there are a few.
First, the ads are negative ads, not positive ones. They show why people hate X86 and X64 machines–not necessarily servers, since I did not see a single rack-mounted machine in the ads–without saying what they are and who made them. Not one ad ever suggested that a System i was better than an Intel box, or why, unless you tried to read some of the real fine print after the videos ran.
The ads also talk about PC issues, and the fact is that most people–even those who use OS/400 and i5/OS servers, with or without knowing it–sit at PCs as they work each day, and they almost certainly sit at a Windows box. Changing the server on the back-end does not change experience on the end user’s desk, at least not necessarily in any way that they will identify with a particular server.
Third, IBM calls its target audience the “Intel Generation,” which ignores RISC/Unix boxes (still dominating data centers), which ignores Advanced Micro Devices with its 20 percent share of server sales these days, and which plays right into the hand of the dominant (at least by volume) X64 market. You can’t slam the Intel architecture and label the people you want to attract the Intel Generation. Or, more precisely, you can, but it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.
Right approach, IBM. Very amusing, too. But what you want are ads that show how life is better for IT shops that have System i5 boxes. Do people spend less money? Do they have more time for other projects? Do they get to go home on time and get rowdy with their friends and frisky with their spouses? Is their golf game better? Do they have time to learn to play golf at all? Maybe take up a new hobby? Or maybe being better is just too boring? This is Minnesota, after all. But, then again, rock star Prince (who is using his name again) is cool, and no one would ever call him boring.