The Olympic Commotion
Ah, what a day it was.

You visited the cash machine.  It worked.

You made a plane reservation.  It worked.

You filed an insurance claim.  It worked.

You made a mortgage payment.  It worked.

And it's all because OS/2 has a rather attractive feature.  It works.

Those are the first words I saw when I opened a very slick and glossy "Official NBC Viewer's Guide" to the 1996 Olympic Games. It's no coincidence that these words were part of an IBM advertisement or that IBM is a worldwide Olympic sponsor or that IBM sent this viewer's guide to the offices of OS/2 e-Zine!. IBM's Olympic propaganda machine has kicked into high gear and unless you're stuck in the bush without electronic or paper communications, chances are, you're hearing about it.

While not entirely focusing on OS/2, IBM's ad campaign during the Olympics has been a pleasure to behold. Emphasizing their Olympic oriented "subtitled" commercials, Big Blue has unleashed a staggering number of TV spots during the Atlanta Games and an impressive array of companion print ads. And there have been some non-"subtitled" commercials as well, pointing out IBM's broad range of software (i.e., OS/2) and hardware solutions for all situations. For those who complain that IBM, "doesn't know how to market," I say: Nonsense!

The ad I mentioned at the beginning of this column is a great example. This one is obviously a Warp specific ad and I can honestly say that I think it is one of the best I have ever seen. No, it doesn't make me want to buy OS/2 to play Quake on it, but it does do some important things. It tells me that OS/2 is used everywhere. It tells me it is used for many things. And it tells me it works.

Much to my chagrin, IBM has still had relatively little success selling OS/2 to end users (calm down, I said relatively -- in absolute terms there are still a lot of us). So when you consider that as much as 80% (or more) of IBM's OS/2 customers may be Fortune 500 companies, you can see why they produce this type of ad. It's easy to specifically target this group of customers (at least, easier than trying to find common desires in the diverse end-user market) and the dividends are fantastic: support contracts, vertical apps sales...

But that doesn't mean this ad turns end-users away. Despite its business oriented focus, the ad appeals to end-users too. It's simple and easy to understand: OS/2 = good. Heck, it even mentions that home delivery from some KFC restaurants is powered by OS/2. How much more common Joe appeal can you get than that? KFC = OS/2 = good.

Ok, maybe IBM could have made this ad (and others) more appealing to home users while still retaining its business focus but overall I'm relatively happy with it. And for those of you who don't think that IBM knows how to sell things, well, where do you think they got the billions of dollars (in cash, by the way) to buy Lotus? A loan from their fathers?

I don't think we need to worry about IBM's ability to sell OS/2 Warp. Whether we need to worry about IBM's ability to see Warp's potential is a different matter, but out of sincere respect for what they've accomplished so far, I'm willing to keep my mouth shut and see what they can do. It is their baby after all.

And speaking of the Olympics, a lot of people have been suggesting that IBM may have shot itself in the foot with its high profile as the worldwide information technology sponsor. Specifically, people have been jumping on the incessant complaints by the media that the information system is, "nightmarishly slow" (to quote one Canadian news anchor).

Something to remember here is that there are a lot of systems in place at the games and the media is only really involved with one of them. If, as IBM claims, that one system has problems, then of course the media will harp endlessly on it -- it's the only experience they have. They're not being malicious, but that doesn't mean that IBM has dropped the ball either. As long as casual viewers can be made aware of this fact, then probably no harm has been done.

In an effort to reassure the world that Canada won't accidentally be awarded a gold medal in men's basketball this year, IBM Consultant Relations recently sent out a short press release explaining many of the different systems in place at the games and stating that, for the most part, they are running smoothly. Regarding the media's perceived problems with the information network IBM said:

We are acutely aware of how serious it is when any system does not perform to a customer's expectations, and would never minimize that. However, you should be aware that the vast majority of IBM's systems are working well in Atlanta.
IBM knows spin control.

In the end, I think IBM has done what a lot of OS/2 users have been wanting them to do for a long time. They have jumped hip deep into the "mindshare" waters and this can only benefit OS/2. For the last week I haven't been able to turn on the TV without seeing IBM's logo, hearing their name or finding out how they can fulfil every need I have ever had.

Will it work? Are the Olympics as memorable as Start Me Up by the Stones? Maybe.

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