title: I do not get it


by: Scott Bradner


This ad campaign must have cost IBM a lot of money but it sure is a dumb one.  Two guys in baby blue space suits claiming to be from a parallel universe. It's sort of like the end of "2001, A Space Odyssey" set in corporate America.  In my opinion itŐs the ad agency which must be from a parallel universe.  But it's not only IBM that seems to have reached across the space-time continuum to find a doppelganger Madison Avenue.


Flipping through just a week's collection of trade journals and TV shows comes up with a number of other examples of suspicious illogic.  Does anyone actually understand what Worldcom is trying to say with its "Generation D" ads or who they are trying to target?  How about the Genuity  "Black Rocket" series - the very sight of a little toy rocket ship, the design of which Buck Rodgers would have considered quaint, can silence the most vocal critic?  How many people actually believe Microsoft's "5-9s" ads which imply that Microsoft servers will have 99.999% uptime - which means about 5 minutes per year outage?  It takes longer than that to apply the updates that come out over the course of a month.  I do note that the visuals that go along with the ads neglect to include a decimal point - maybe they actually mean 9.9999% uptime.  Come to think of it though, are the ads any less confusing than Microsoft's .Net "strategy?


There are still more.  Sun Microsystem's "the dot in .com" series where a large black sphere destroyed corporate boardrooms sure made me want to rush out and get one for myself.  Then again having AT&T's business networking group being portrayed as being chiseled in sandstone in ancient Egypt might explain some things I've observed about traditional telephone companies and suppliers.


I know it is hard to sell some types of things.  It's even harder when it's no longer politically correct to use the old standbys like sex as a sales tool. (Though Computer Associates does not quite seem to have gotten that message and that message will be no where to be seen at Networld + Interop next month in Las Vegas.)  But I've seen enough good ads to know it can be done.  There just seems to be a bunch of companies who use ad agencies specializing in the obscure and, amazingly enough, approve the results.  Makes you wonder how good their judgment is when dealing with corporate business matters.


Maybe I'm getting old and out of touch but it seems to me to mirror the premise  in TV's Third Rock From The Sun - visitors from outer space that do not quite get how humans think.


I wonder what these agencies from far far away get paid with -- mirror-image, reverse logic dollars?


disclaimer: Harvard has lots of real dollars but did not express an opinion on these ads.