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IBM’s new Linux ads trivialize business decisions

In response to IBM’s new advertising campaign featuring a young blond-haired, blue-eyed boy and various celebrities to promote Linux, Michael Gardner writes:The Linux community is a very sophisticated one as is the professional IT community (one being a subset of the other). Trying to sell Linux on TV via these ads reminds me of old Apple ads.
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In response to IBM’s new advertising campaign featuring a young blond-haired, blue-eyed boy and various celebrities to promote Linux, Michael Gardner writes:

The Linux community is a very sophisticated one as is the professional IT community (one being a subset of the other). Trying to sell Linux on TV via these ads reminds me of old Apple ads. Those Apple ads may have worked with the consumer--essentially, "Be Different,” “Own an Apple,” “Buy Pepsi,” or whatever--but in many cases these multimillion dollar ads trivialize the business decision. Can you honestly imagine a CEO or CFO coming in one day and saying to the CIO: "Saw that IBM ad for a thing called Linux during the SuperBowl…we’ve got that, right?" What do you do or say in response to that question? Should you laugh at the CEO/CFO because this thing is being marketed like golf clubs or Pepsi? Ok, you might get fired by the CEO for laughing at him. Do you try to explain the complexity of the whole thing (including the implications of the SCO lawsuit), putting the CEO to sleep? You might still end up fired.

IBM has historically tried to play to the CEO/CFO angle. It’s the classic old pinstripes strategy: Get to the CEO and to heck with the CIO and IT staff. As much as I admire IBM (and have earned numerous paychecks from the largesse that they bestowed in 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s) for updating their strategy to promote Linux (of which I am firm believer and promoter myself), do they really expect in this day and age of complexity that the boxer Muhammad Ali talking with a kid (and the metaphor of a kid for Linux is really strained as well) will convince people of anything?

There's a very real and good story to tell, and they should tell it. The story can still be boiled down for marketing/TV purposes: Real geek, system programmer types in a backroom, drinking too much Mountain Dew at night (cross-merchandise!), frustrated by monopolies, being told what they can and can't program rally around “Code Free or Die,” a new American revolution or something to that effect. They should dump the Procter & Gamble marketing guys off of this one.

Michael Gardner

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