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Artificial Intelligence Brand Strategy Global Marketer Week

IBM marketing VP on sales-driven ads and the brand’s plan to unite cloud computing & AI


By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

May 22, 2024 | 7 min read

In an exclusive interview at the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week, Jonathan Adashek, IBM’s senior VP of marketing & communications, highlights IBM’s dedication to pioneering technologies like AI and hybrid cloud solutions – and the potential that these tools have to redefine marketing and business in near future.

Jonathan Adashek, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, IBM

Adashek sits down with The Drum's Audrey Kemp to discuss marketing at IBM / Credit: Audrey Kemp

At the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week in Toronto, IBM’s senior vice-president of marketing and communications, Jonathan Adashek, shared his insights on the evolving landscape of marketing and the integral role technology plays in IBM’s strategic direction.

Adashek’s interest in aligning marketing with sales, leveraging AI and exploring future technologies like quantum AI provides a roadmap for IBM’s future growth, innovation and leadership in the computing industry.

Tightening the bonds between sales & marketing

At the heart of Adashek’s strategic approach is a sense that marketing and sales are converging, each party to an increasingly symbiotic relationship.

“There is more of an expectation for marketing organizations to be even closer aligned to sales than they have been in the past,” he explains, noting the complexity of modern sales processes involving diverse buying groups and intricate cycles.

It’s clear that Adashek views it as his responsibility to ensure that IBM’s marketing initiatives are always inherently connected to the company’s business needs. Every campaign he leads is designed to support IBM’s sales and business growth goals. “If it’s helping us to sell another instance of WatsonX [a commercial generative AI and scientific data platform], mainframe or whatever it might be, we need to make sure that all the work we’re doing is driving those business objectives,” he says.

The brand’s ‘Trust What You Create’ campaign, led by Ogilvy and launched at the Adobe Summit in March, exemplifies this approach. This project transformed the Las Vegas Sphere into a fishbowl with various fish symbolizing data issues, such as the ‘missing data fish’ and the ‘disco ball fish’ representing data drift. The creative execution not only captured attention but also underscored the importance of trusting data.

In Adashek’s view, the campaign served as a masterclass in modern B2B marketing. “The execution of it was so spot-on,” he recounts. “We told a story that was relevant for the audience that was there, that was tied to our business objectives, and tied to the objectives of our partner, Adobe, to make that be successful.”

At the same time, Adashek says, the brand’s marketing efforts always need to resonate with IBM’s longstanding reputation for innovation and excellence – ideas at the heart of the 113-year-old brand’s identity.

“We’ve got our principles that make us IBM and we can never deviate from those,” he says. “People engage with us because of what we bring to the table and who we are.”

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The union of cloud computing & AI as a competitive differentiator

Adashek, like many modern marketers, sees AI as the most potentially transformative technology for the marketing world today.

The impact of AI, he posits, will be “far-reaching” in marketing.

“AI is changing the way we approach everything,” he says. Specifically, Adashek suggests that marketers who lean into AI can expect to enjoy more precise data analysis, better-personalized content creation and more efficient content delivery.

In the years to come, Adashek echoes the words of IBM’s CEO, Arvind Krishna, who has articulated IBM’s vision to become the leading hybrid cloud and AI company.

“That’s where we’re focused and I think we are making a lot of progress,” Adashek says while acknowledging that the hybrid cloud industry is still nascent. He also expects the ongoing exploration of open-source methodologies and models to drive further innovation in these areas.

Beyond these investments, Adashek is optimistic about the potential for quantum AI – the intersection of quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

According to AI Multiple Research, quantum AI will be able to achieve results that are not possible with classical computers, like the rapid training of machine learning models and the creation of optimized algorithms.

“I am excited about what the future brings when quantum AI commercializes in a few years.”

For more insights from top marketers, check out Nissan CMO Allyson Witherspoon’s perspectives on automotive marketing in the age of connectivity & automation.

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