IBM Blue Gene supercomputer

Say “Goodnight,” Ad Agencies – IBM is in the House

This is big news… even if it’s a few weeks old. In late March, IBM announced they were planning to expand their consulting services to leverage technology to create transaction-worthy user experiences.

Big Blue will hire 1,000 employees to populate 10 “IBM Interactive Experience” labs in cities worldwide, giving their customers “the opportunity to work side-by-side with researchers and consultants as well as experts in experience design, mobile and digital marketing.” Yes, you read that right. Not only will IBM have the keys to the Big Data library, it will now offer full-service strategy and creative services to boot.

IBM’s SVP of Global Business Services, Bridget van Kralingen, said in a press release, “As our clients recalibrate what it means to engage with their customers or employees, we’re bringing them the full spectrum of world-class design and IBM Research, book-ended by strategy consulting and our strength in Big Data.”

What that means for advertising agencies, big and small, is obvious: It’s game over for the decades-old model of agency consulting. IBM has disintermediated full-service agencies by connecting the dots in the provider-consumer communications chain.

“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience,” Kralingen points out. “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere, and the quality of that experience is entirely dependent on the use of individualized information.”

And what does IBM know about individualized information? Lots, of course, as a world-leader in CRM systems, Big Data analytics, and psycholinguistic analytics. Imagine a world where consumers had the opportunity to manage the information corporations hold on them – and corporations had the power to connect all of the online profiles (social media and others) that existed on that customer, while identifying influencer groups, analyzing life event data, and performing psycholinguistic analysis on their running commentaries.

And you were worried about the NSA… Ha!

In short, while advertising agencies have been struggling to rediscover their raison d’etre in the wake of fee-based media buyers, outsourced CMOs, freelance design, crowdsourcing, and social media, IBM is quietly sitting down at the agency conference table to eat their only remaining lunch.

Say “Goodnight,” agencies.