IBM Promo, Case study CENTENNIAL by Ogilvy & Mather New York

Adsarchive » Promo , Case study » IBM » CENTENNIAL


Pin to Collection
Add a note
Industry Corporate Communication
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United States
Agency Ogilvy & Mather New York
Released December 2011

Credits & Description

Category: Best Integrated Campaign Led by PR
Advertiser: IBM
Co-Agency: (Ogilvy)
Co-Agency: (Sypartners)
Co-Agency: (Vsa Partners)
Media placement: Online Film ("100 x 100") - YouTube, - January 2011
Media placement: Online Film ("They Were There") - YouTube, - January 2011
Media placement: Online Film ("Wild Ducks") - YouTube, - June 2011
Media placement: Book ("Making the World Work Better") - Internal direct mail,, Barnes & Noble - June 2011
Media placement: Largest Corporate Service Day in History - Worldwide - June 2011
Media placement: THINK Exhibit - Lincoln Center, New York - September 2011
Media placement: THINK Exhibit Posters - New York Metro Area wild postings, rail stations, bus shelters, newsstands - September 2011
Media placement: Icons of Progress (logos/newspaper spreads) - New York Times, Wall Street Journal, - June 2011
Media placement: Think Forum - New York City - December 2011

Summary of the Campaign
Corporate Centennials have become a commonplace. But when IBM turned 100 in 2011 it wanted more than the usual self-congratulations. Defining objectives against IBM employees, Clients, Communities and Investors, we built a year-long program of executions and events to turn the occasion into business advantage.

The key strategic problem was this: how does a technology company celebrate its Centennial without seeming out of date? We found the answer in IBM’s spirit of ceaseless innovation – applied to the fields of technology, business and society in general.
This spirit was brought to life across every ‘earned’ and ‘owned’ media channel available, with very little ‘paid’ expenditure. (Our total advertising expenditure across 170 countries was only $6m.)

Rather than focus just on IBM’s June anniversary 2011, we built a year-long program of experiences and events to build a ‘story arc’ throughout the year. At every stage, we maximized coverage, setting specific PR objectives, e.g. drive feature stories, rather than news reports.

As a result IBM significantly strengthened employee perceptions, drove consideration with clients, wooed investors and embedded itself in communities. Although Centennial purposefully didn’t ‘sell’ directly, modelling estimates ROI (due to heightened consideration) of over $1bn. A more engaged workforce and lower staff attrition will pay back multiple millions more. IBM’s stock rose 25% in the year, a gain of $45bn in market-cap. Meanwhile IBM closed the gap at the top of Interbrand’s ‘Best Global Brands’ rankings, rising 8%, poised to overtake Coca-Cola to become the world’s most valuable brand.

The Situation
As IBM approached its Centennial, it had a unique opportunity to cast a more contemporary image. During the 2000s, IBM significantly transformed – from selling off its PC business, to acquiring consulting firm PwCC, to increasing its percentage of revenues outside the U.S. But perceptions of IBM hadn’t always kept pace with their transformation. Many did not recognise IBM’s impact on their everyday lives - from the magnetic stripe on your credit card to inventing the IBM PC, to developing the computer technology to launch astronauts into space. The Centennial was a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform perceptions internally and externally.

The Goal
We first researched other companies’ Centennials, their efforts to give back to communities, and then conducted focus groups with 4 key audiences to help us set goals and strategies against each:

IBM employees: Inspire 430,000 IBMers worldwide
Clients: Drive consideration of IBM
Communities: Embed IBM within the communities it operates in
Investors: Drive market performance throughout the centennial year

As our Centennial communications were not to be delivered through ‘paid’ media, we set one further set of media objectives:

Media: Ensure magnification of the Centennial through ‘owned’ and especially ‘earned’ (i.e. PR and social) channels

The Strategy
The key strategic problem was this: how does a technology company celebrate its Centennial without seeming out of date? We found the answer in IBM’s spirit of ceaseless innovation – applied to the fields of technology, business and society in general. To flesh this out, we asked the whole company to nominate their favourite IBM innovation stories, receiving almost 1,000 separate stories: an amazing glimpse into the soul of the company.

This fuelled the approaches that set the direction for the entire year-long program:

1) Highlight the 100 most impressive milestones from IBM’s past to reinforce IBM’s thought leadership going forward;

2) Capture IBM’s capabilities and achievements through 3 key Centennial themes:
1. Pioneering the science of information;
2. Reinventing the modern corporation;
3. Making the world work better;

3) Manage a global program, yet customise to implement locally;

4) Put a face to many innovations by highlighting IBM inventors.

The campaign built a ‘story-arc’ through the Centennial year. With as a hub, week-by-week we told 100 IBM innovation stories, illustrating each with a custom-designed 'Icon of Progress'. We produced 3 Centennial Films with Oscar-Winning directors, celebrating IBMers, clients and their collective achievements. And we released a Centennial book: not the usual cob-webbed chronology, but something with value and credibility. It became one of 2011’s most-distributed titles.

On IBM’s actual birthday, IBMers donated 3.1MM hours of their time to local projects (the biggest Corporate Service event in history). The result: more content, and more magnification through media coverage.

At the end of the year, we convened IBM’s ‘Think Forum’ – 700 business and World leaders together in New York to discuss the future of leadership – followed by ‘Think Exhibits’ offering the public an immersive hands-on experience of IBM innovations. Throughout PR and tactically-deployed advertising built and sustained momentum.

Documented Results
Topline results are above, specific PR metrics follow:

Connected with thousands of business/IT leaders: 5,000 event attendees worldwide, 700 C-level executives at Forum.

With 625,000+ copies distributed, our book was one of 2011’s biggest titles

70% of the workforce (goal 50%) participated in 'Day of Service': the largest corporate-service initiative in history. 3m hours donated (3 times the goal), or 1,021 years, valued at $100m; service projects in 71% of 170 countries (goal 60%).

Generated 5,700+ articles, 11,800+ blogs, 14,700+ tweets - 73% positive. IBM was the top trending topic on Twitter; 20m impressions in social media.

53% of coverage in major news/business publications (goal 51%). 77% of mentions feature stories (goal 51%).

PR delivered key messages: Innovative technology (71% coverage, 139% of goal), transformational leadership (41%, 136% of goal), societal impact (37%,148% of goal); icon(s) of Progress in 68% of coverage.

Other companies are now approaching IBM for best practices on how to celebrate their anniversary.