One of the ways MicroStrategy Inc. gained notoriety during the Internet bubble, aside from its stock's meteoric rise and fall as it settled accounting fraud charges, was its lavish spending on advertising, culminating in $2 million worth of ads on Super Bowl Sunday in 2000 to promote its personal e-business services.
The McLean-based software firm nearly fell apart after it settled civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission and class-action lawsuits for millions of dollars. It consolidated its Northern Virginia operations, laid off more than half its staff and spun off or closed its non-core businesses, such as Strategy.com, which was to deliver news and information through wireless devices.
The company now has slightly more than 825 employees and its executives recently set out to create a new, more targeted marketing campaign. MicroStrategy's focus is on marketing its central business intelligence services, also known as data mining, said Chief Operating Officer Sanju Bansal. Instead of high-profile Super Bowl spots, the firm now designs ads in-house and places them in industry publications, including Computer World, and has enlisted clients to lend their names to weekly press releases.
The company has reported a profit for each of the past six quarters, largely from one-time gains. It says its turnaround is complete and Bansal says the firm once again has the respect of its Fortune 2000 customers and industry analysts. Bansal has taken over the duties of lead spokesman from MicroStrategy chief executive Michael J. Saylor, the company's mercurial founder who became closely associated with its public troubles.
Bansal will discuss the firm's brand rebuilding during a workshop tomorrow hosted by the District chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Company public relations director Marc Brailov said MicroStrategy plans to keep its public relations in-house, spending about $300,000 a year on related expenses, including salaries for a small staff. Besides announcing new contract wins to the media and putting positive feedback from customers in press releases, the company also recently put out a report explaining what MicroStrategy's business is in plain English, rather than technobabble, Brailov said.
"What we found is a lot of reporters didn't really understand what the technology did and why it could benefit them," Brailov said. "We recognize that positive press obviously enhances the brand and can generate leads and help in the sales cycle, in investor relations. All of that is an important part of marketing."
The company's rebranding push has worked, Gartner research director Bill Hostmann said.
"All the good marketing wouldn't have helped if they didn't fix their financial statements and get their sales back on track again," said Hostmann, based in San Francisco. "They had some fundamental issues."
Another Virginia technology company, BearingPoint Inc., a McLean consulting firm, continued its brand building last week with the launch of ads in business and consumer magazines including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Fortune. The ads, designed by the McLean office of Arnold Worldwide, are an "indirect knock" at International Business Machines Corp. and other technology equipment companies that have started to sell consulting services, BearingPoint officials said.
"Many companies in the hardware/software business have moved into consulting. They're trying to become all things to all people," BearingPoint chief marketing officer Linda Rebrovick said. "We believe it is important to be the objective adviser for our clients. Market research told us that clients realize that IBM is going to recommend IBM software and hardware."
The ads are the second phase of BearingPoint's marketing campaign, which began last year with its renaming from KPMG Consulting Inc. One of the new ads features a CEO's annual letter to shareholders, yet to be written, from 2008. The copy reads, "In the future, you have no stock value. You have no investors. . . . Because the future hasn't happened yet. It's a blank sheet. A clean slate. A white canvas. How will you draw it?" The ads ends with the firm's tagline "Business and Systems Aligned. Business Empowered." Arnold's Woody Kay is the campaign's executive creative director.
BearingPoint would not disclose its spending for the current campaign, but it spent $7.6 million on advertising in 2002 and about $1.04 million in the first six months of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, a New York advertising industry data-tracking firm.
Nextel's Action Verbs
Nextel Communications Inc. today will do a national launch of its new ad campaign designed by the New York office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, part of Omnicom Group Inc., which won the estimated $150 million Nextel creative account in May.
The Reston-based wireless carrier's new message has a bit more of a business bent than previous efforts, touting Nextel's ability to service its "get-it-done" customers. In the past two weeks, the company previewed the new TV, print, radio, Web, direct mail and outdoor ads with a teaser campaign featuring yellow billboards with the word "DO" in black letters. The TV spots began running yesterday on CBS. Nextel's new logo and tagline "Nextel.Done." was crafted to symbolize what products and services the company provides to customers. The ads' yellow color represents "action, optimism and accomplishment," company officials said.
The first spots will appear in business publications including Fortune, Forbes and Information Week; newspapers such as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal; and on TV channels MSNBC, CNN, USA and others. One cheeky ad, featuring a hand holding a Nextel phone with walkie-talkie functions, states, "Want a fashion accessory? Buy a poodle. Coast-to-coast walkie-talkie for those who need to get things done instantly."
To build interest in the campaign, Nextel ran a series of yellow box ads in USA Today's Money section and wrapped the ads around phone booths in New York, with the exception of those owned by Verizon Communications Inc. The bold design of the campaign will help it stand out, Nextel spokesman Chris Grandis said.
"We don't spend as much as our competitors, but we feel this campaign will reflect a much larger presence than we've ever had before," Grandis said.
Nextel would not disclose spending on the new campaign, but the company spent $161.1 million on advertising in 2001 and $199.3 million in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.
Ads and Ends
White & Baldacci of Herndon said the sting has lessened slightly from the loss this year of its lucrative Amtrak advertising account with last week's win of a $3.5 million annual contract to promote Virginia tourism. Virginia Tourism Corp., the state's travel marketer, awarded a two-year contract to the agency after a panel of tourism industry representatives reviewed 16 written proposals and five oral presentations from contenders. . . . The McLean office of ad agency Arnold Worldwide created a new national campaign for Amtrak that launched last week in Los Angeles and five other cities to promote the railroad's low fares. The campaign includes newspaper ads in Amtrak's top 21 markets plus 49 smaller markets and radio spots in six markets. No television commercials will be used. Arnold won the estimated $30 million Amtrak account earlier this year. . . . Arlington-based Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens Advertising hired Alicia Wallace as senior media planner. She previously worked as media supervisor with Herndon ad agency White & Baldacci. . . . The District office of public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard Inc. hired Bette Levin as a senior vice president. She previously supervised work for government agencies at Ogilvy Public Relations. The firm also hired Ralph Posner as a vice president in the consumer marketing division. He formerly worked at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. . . . Imre Communications, a Baltimore brand communications firm, hired Christy Rippel as an account executive and Elise Babbitt and Nick Eber as associate account executives. Rippel and Babbitt will work out of the firm's Baltimore office and Eber will be based in the District. Rippel was previously an associate account executive at Ketchum Public Relations in the District. Babbitt formerly interned at Ketchum Public Relations, and Eber is a former intern at Imre. . . . Momentum Marketing, an Alexandria event marketing agency, recently teamed with Minneapolis-based Fallon Intersect, the marketing services unit of ad agency Fallon Worldwide, to create a six-market promotional campaign for Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts. The campaign, which took place over Labor Day weekend, focused on the hotel chain's "Towel Amnesty Day" on Aug. 28, recognizing the trend of hotel guests taking Holiday Inn towels. Momentum Marketing teams handed out about 1,500 towels in markets including Myrtle Beach, S.C., Point Pleasant, N.J., and Hermosa Beach, Calif. . . . Best Marketing, a District technology marketing firm, signed Baltimore-based Mind Over Machines Inc., a business- and government-focused information technology provider, as a new client. Best Marketing will create a corporate communications campaign for the company. . . . Rob Henninger, chief executive and founder of Henninger Media Services, an Arlington-based production firm, will receive a Distinguished Achievement Award Friday from ITVA-DC, the District chapter of the International Television Association. The award will be presented to Henninger at the ITVA-DC Peer Awards ceremonies at the National Press Club in the District. . . . Furniture manufacturer Thomasville Furniture Industries recently chose the Martin Agency of Richmond as its new ad agency of record. Martin will manage the company's advertising, media planning and buying, and public relations. Thomasville expects its first ads to start running early next year. Billings were not disclosed. . . . Clark Realty Capital of Bethesda hired Comella Design Group, a Bethesda visual communications firm, to market its new luxury apartment building under construction next to the Clarendon Metro station in Arlington. Comella will produce all the marketing collateral and ads for the property, as well as develop the building's name and logo. . . . District-based RTC Relationship Marketing won a direct-marketing communications account from Herndon-based Road Runner High Speed Online, a residential broadband unit of Time Warner Cable. The contract includes strategic planning, creative development, and project management and production. . . . Environics Communications Inc., a public relations agency with a District office, hired Stephen Bingham as a vice president. Bingham, a Washington area native, has experience working with health-science companies and organizations. . . . Madison Media, a Savage Mill, Md.-based advertising and marketing firm, recently changed its name to Madison Marketing. The agency will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in January.
Sabrina Jones writes about the local advertising and marketing industry every other Monday in Washington Business. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.