EDS Returns to TV Advertising

IT services giant EDS said on Thursday that it would return to television advertising after a yearlong hiatus with a small campaign targeted at high-level executives.

The ad push, with spending reportedly under $10 million, involves the first TV ads EDS has run since the 2002 Winter Olympics. Unlike that campaign, which featured nearly a half hour of ads during the 17-day event, EDS’ current push will be stretched over the rest of the year, with select placements during sports events.

Minneapolis-based Publicis agency Fallon Worldwide designed three TV spots that will begin running today on USA Network during the Byron Nelson Championship, which has EDS as a title sponsor. The Plano, Tex.-based company will stick to golf with spots running throughout the year during PGA golf tournaments televised on USA and CBS. Spots will also appear during ESPN SportsCenter.

Before shying away from TV advertising, EDS made a name for itself with clever Fallon-designed spots that relied heavily on humor to communicate the company’s complex IT offerings. In 2000 and 2001, EDS won raves for its Super Bowl commercials, which featured “cat herders” one year and “running with the squirrels” in another. The past two Super Bowls, however, EDS has chosen to sit on the sidelines.

The three new Fallon spots, like earlier EDS ads, use metaphors to communicate the value of EDS’ complex offerings. However, the spots mark a shift in tone: the fun-loving mass branding of its earlier campaigns has been replaced with a more buttoned-down, targeted approach that communicates EDS’ reliability and value during rocky economic times.

“With EDS, it’s about finding simple ways to illustrate the wide range of services it provides,” said David Lubars, Fallon North America’s president and executive creative director.

In one spot a forklift struggles to get where it needs to go, only to be scooped up by a larger forklift that takes it there. Another commercial shows a car stalled on train tracks just missed by an ongoing train. While the driver and passenger celebrate, however, another train destroys the car.

The print component of the campaign began running last month in The Wall Street Journal. The simple, text ads take a compare-and-contrast approach using cultural icons. In one ad Pong is at the left side of a line that runs to “Something out of the Matrix.” EDS is aligned with the Matrix, in contrast to the early-edition video game. Other creatives use comparative text like “Survivor Contestant” and “Grand Chess Master,” and “Piggy Bank” and “A Swiss Bank Account.”

The small, targeted approach EDS is taking stands in contrast to the huge push being made by IT services competitors like IBM, which rolled out a $700 million to $800 million ad campaign last October to support its “On Demand” initiative. HP followed with the rollout of its $400 million “Everything is Possible” campaign the following month. Last week, HP earmarked one fourth of its ad budget for a “Demand More” retort to IBM.

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