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Oracle launches advertising blitz

The database software company breaks out a $100 million advertising campaign designed to counter IBM's push for e-business.

Oracle launched a $100 million advertising campaign intended to check the momentum of IBM's e-business blitz.

The full-page print ads, conceived by New York-based Grey Advertising, are the first stage of the database software giant's biggest push to date to promote its e-commerce capabilities. The campaign is expected to run for three months, first in daily newspapers, followed by magazines, television, and Web sites.

Oracle typically spends about $140 million on advertising in an entire year, but has decided to up the ante in touting its software's online capabilities.

"We're talking a lot of money here, but that's the position we're in right now," said Mark Jarvis, Oracle's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. "We are seeing an Internet gold rush and we want to make sure we capitalize on it in lead generation."

Many "dot com" companies already have expensive ad campaigns in place, of course. One of them, CNET, has even undertaken a $100 million effort that's turned the once-profitable outfit into a loss-maker. But Oracle's move is a bit of a departure for the well-heeled database giant. (CNET is the publisher of News.com.)

IBM sees Oracle's decision as a defensive move, a spokesman said.

"We clearly have a very strong mindshare when it comes to e-business, otherwise they wouldn't be nipping at our heels," IBM's John Bukovinsky said. The computer giant, which kicked off its e-business advertising campaign in 1997, expects to spend $600 million on advertising this year and about the same next year, he said.

Oracle plans to

One of Oracle's new ads
launch a national television advertising campaign and Web-based ads by the end of the year, Jarvis said. The campaign focuses on the fact that 93 percent of dot-coms use Oracle software on their sites, either on the database or applications end, he said.

The company has not yet distinguished between Oracle customers that are using its e-commerce applications--such as software for buying and selling goods and services on the Internet--and those who using just the database, Jarvis confirmed.

As to make its anti-IBM strategy clear, one of the company's ads states: "It's not as easy as just putting an e in front of everything?.nine of the top ten business-to-business Web sites run Oracle. IBM is the only holdout."

In January, Big Blue announced the latest edition of its advertising efforts, a $75 million e-business people campaign that focuses on IBM's employees who provide e-commerce services. According to IBM, services is its fastest-growing segment, with approximately $29 billion in 1998 revenue and more than 126,000 employees.

Jarvis criticized IBM's emphasis on services, arguing that companies pay more to bring in Big Blue consultants--who can take a longer time to get projects up and running.

"IBM is trying to sell services," he said. "The problem with that is that IBM [comes in] with a higher price."

Bukovinsky countered by saying e-business "isn't just a software play," and that a conversation with a corporate customer typically "doesn't begin around a discussion of the database."

"Sixty percent of the money spent on e-business over the next couple of years will be spent on services as a company transforms itself," he said. "Nobody does that with 'shrink-wrapped' software."