Why IBM Launched a Massive Content Campaign Across Three Continents

Three camera crews, three journalists, 17 countries, three continents, and 50 commercials: If you’re a huge company with a global reach, why not go big with your content?

During the Masters Tournament in April, IBM launched 50 new documentary-style commercials, each featuring an IBM client from around the world. That footage was just the tip of the iceberg for the “Made With IBM” campaign.

“It wasn’t, ‘Let’s go create 50 commercials,'” said Ann Rubin, vice president of branded content and global creative for IBM. “It was, ‘Let’s go out and create tons of content, and we can pull tons more content from that.’ We don’t even think of it as TV advertising. We think of it as content creation.”

How “Made With IBM” was made

It all began when Rubin and her team were handed a challenge: Do something unique. They responded with a plan to pair three journalists with three directors and their film crews, and send them all over the world to shoot mini-documentaries about how businesses are engaging with technology. Staff from IBM and Ogilvy came along for the ride, too.

“Documentarians go in without an agenda,” said Steve Simpson, chief creative officer for Ogilvy North America, in “The Making of Made With IBM” video. “They go there to find out what the true story is, and then we respond with the appropriate design to that story.”

The documentary journalists were asked to interview more than 20 IBM employees and 40 business clients, ranging from Princess Cruises, to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, to music app Zya. They didn’t ask the clients about what IBM does for them; instead, they investigated how each became a leader in their industry.

“They just went out and talked to clients,” Rubin said. “Often times, we had people book for an hour, and they stayed for two.”

It all adds up

If sending film crews to three continents sounds like an awful big investment for 25 minutes of airtime, that’s because what aired during the Masters was just the start of “Made With IBM,” a content campaign that will continue across numerous channels.

“Made With IBM” is now housed in a multimedia content hub, and it’s clear just how much the brand has been able to reap from their road trip; photos, video, stories, and more let visitors dive deep into each subject. IBM hopes that it shows how the “A Smarter Planet” campaign is evolving from a focus on “what” and “why” to “how.”

“While Smarter Planet remains our point of view … a lot has changed,” Rubin said. “Important tech like mobile, social—they’ve advanced. People are using technology to change how they operate. Those stories need to be shared.”

It’s a clever move from IBM; after all, their technology is crucial to their clients’ success. That means that IBM’s value proposition comes across even if their clients don’t overtly mention IBM. In addition, having well-known businesses explain how they use that technology illustrates what IBM does in a digestible way.

Made with IBM has the brand engaging with the public in new ways in the real world as well, such as the cognitive-cooking food truck that brought the company’s supercomputer Watson to Austin for SXSW.

I don’t know if we’ll ever just shoot a TV commercial again.

“I want customers to be able to engage with IBM in a way they couldn’t before,” Rubin said. “Made with IBM is not an advertising campaign. I think it’s really about shifting a mindset from ‘I am doing advertising’ to ‘I am creating content.’ I don’t know if we’ll ever just shoot a TV commercial again.”

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Image by IBM

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