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Big Blue poised for software ad splash

As part of a mammoth push for its on-demand initiative, IBM plans to launch an ad campaign touting the vital role its software could play in helping businesses become tech-flexible.

IBM plans to launch an advertising barrage Friday to raise the profile of its software group and to promote the company's e-business on-demand initiative.

The software-specific ad campaign is part of a multimillion-dollar marketing blitz launched by IBM last week to support its on-demand computing effort. The promotional push includes billboards in Silicon Valley and full-page advertisements in business papers, technology publications and Web sites, according to IBM.

The goal of the $10 billion on-demand project is to provide products and services that will help corporations to vary their computing use to match their needs. The project also aims to help companies avoid being hamstrung by rigid computing systems. All of IBM's businesses, including its hardware, software and consulting services, are involved in the project.

The software campaign's tagline is: "Can you see it?" It's designed to suggest that software is an essential ingredient in making a company more reactive and nimble, said Mark Rosen, an IBM marketing executive.

"When businesses need to respond and react quickly to changes, it's really the software that is the enabler," Rosen said. "(Software) is the underpinning."

In the wider campaign, television ads will be used to raise general awareness of the term "on-demand," Rosen said. The software-specific ads also use the marketing term, but are targeted directly at information technology executives. IBM plans to use the on-demand tag in advertising for its hardware and consulting businesses as well.

The other strand in IBM's software push will seek to create awareness of application brands such as Lotus, DB2, WebSphere, Tivoli and Rational.

Though IBM's software group was created in 1995, the company is still struggling to shake off its image as a hardware-only provider, Rosen said.

"One of my challenges is to continue to reinforce (the message) that IBM is in the software business," he said.