Friday, December 11, 2009

Conversations in verbal craftsmanship

In an era of high attitude/low content corporate image ads, IBM bucks the trend with its latest copy-heavy corporate image campaign. This particular ad addresses healthcare problems, and with the exception of a large, colorful and simple graphic at the top of this full-page ad, the entire page is full of copy. Long-form copy.

Entitled "Conversations for a Smarter Planet," this ad campaign seeks to establish its new position as a trusted global services partner. This particular ad speaks to the current topic of healthcare reform.

Certainly for IBM this campaign takes risks:
  1. They’re connecting readers with IBM’s IT solutions to real global issues
  2. They’re employing a very copy heavy approach
  3. And worst of all, they’re daring to engage us in a conversation.
Then again, you have to admire the craftsmanship with which this ad is written. The copy is inviting. In essence, it’s all how our human healthcare systems connect and communicate.

The story moves quickly to connect with us, share an honest story about a particular problem, and introduce examples of easy ways that IT can solve each problem. The closing motivates us to connect with IBM to discover more. At Stinson, we recognize these as the hallmarks of our C.H.E.M.® tool. But examine this copy deeper and the craftsmanship is everywhere, from economical phrasing and succinct word choices to parallel paragraph and sentence construction.

Green publisher Joel Makower comments in his blog that the “series of fascinating full-page ads from IBM Corp. got the better of me.” Later in his review he asks, “Can a series of ads really start a conversation with customers that will lead to profitable engagements, unprecedented partnerships, and systemic transformations that improve all of our lives? I’ll reserve the right to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. But you’ve got to like IBM’s bold, clear vision.”

Make no mistake — good copy writing takes time and energy. What makes this ad really strong is that you never feel like IBM is attempting to sell you. Instead you feel drawn into an honest conversation concerning global issues – and in this case, an intelligent conversation with a partner that has carefully envisioned the road ahead. Read more about this series at and

Click here to read Joel Makower’s comments on this series.

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