Enduring IBM partnership is a model for all of us to follow

I was a newbie at PRWeek in 2001 when IBM decided to consolidate its global agency roster from dozens to three.

I was a newbie at PRWeek in 2001 when IBM decided to consolidate its global agency roster from dozens to three. For weeks we chased rumors, but eventually a conference call revealed Big Blue's new team: Text 100, Magnet, and an Omnicom cross-agency construct dubbed One Blue, led by Ketchum's Rob Flaherty.

The newsroom was awash with skeptics. In the industry, few would openly criticize the decision, but naysayers proliferated. One Blue was widely expected to fail for lack of talent and ideas. Our editorial headline crystallized the sentiment, "One Blue is one weird direction." Text 100 was a tech savant, but doubters thought its geek cred was unlikely to translate well in IBM's corporate corridors.

Magnet faded, but the two biggest firms in the mix, Ketchum and Text 100, have retained the business to this day. One Blue specifically exists no more, but did persist for years, and its principles endured and evolved.

The ongoing leadership of Flaherty and Text's Aedhmar Hynes has been vital. The key client, Jon Iwata, has not only remained, but has grown in his role, moving from CCO to SVP of marcomms at IBM. These individuals have clearly been key drivers of success.

As I have revisited the review, while returning to a new position at Haymarket Media and PRWeek, another factor in its success emerges. Hynes alluded to it in a recent blog, "[Iwata's] vision to rethink and remake the role of communications and marketing as a whole helped cement the strategic value and influence these functions play in supporting the business and building for the future."

The partnership was forged not only to serve IBM's interests, but to elevate the communications function in the organization through hyper-collaboration and risk taking. This focus has benefitted not just IBM and its firms, but the entire profession. I had a ringside view into that during my recent time at the Arthur W. Page Society.

It is a timely theme for me. I have returned to publishing, in part, because I believe there is so much more to what we do than produce content and provide a marketing platform for advertisers. PRWeek, with its sophisticated and passionate base, is perfectly positioned to host a breakthrough in understanding what community, learning, and sharing really means in the b-to-b world.

I expect we'll have our own share of skeptics emerging as PRWeek embraces new directions. The question is, who will we bring along with us?

Julia Hood is EVP of Haymarket Media, parent company of PRWeek. She can be reached at julia.hood@haymarketmedia.com.

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