Awards case study: Find out how IBM won out for best use of martech for live events

Find out how IBM used its ‘Every Second Counts’ campaign to immerse its target audience with real-time experience and customer engagement through live events.

About IBM

IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) unifies business, technology and industry experts to help enterprises to design, build and run their businesses efficiently and profitably. Its clients include major banks, insurers and utilities. 

Over the last 10 years, IBM’s competitive environment has changed dramatically. The ascendancy of cloud services, coupled with the growth of born-online vendors such as Amazon and Google, have intensified the competition for key accounts. 

Its target audience for marketing campaigns is also changing. While chief information officers (CIOS) and chief technology officers (CTOs) remain the primary focus, the growth of managed services means that line-of-business (LOB) managers have increased autonomy to drive technology projects, making them a part of IBM’s audience. 

Specific issues or challenges to be addressed 

'Are you really prepared for a cyber-attack - not if, but when it happens? That was the stark question IBM aimed to pose to audiences, via its innovative and interactive 'Every Second Counts' keynote and webinar marketing activity.

Far from another PowerPoint-heavy presentation, this would act as a sharp, shocking wake-up call for the key decision-makers of global businesses. 

Background and objectives

In 2019, a priority for the GTS Marketing team was to secure keynote business/cyber resilience presentations at high-profile events, with the aim of engaging all 'C suite' roles. 

The target audience 

Cyber-security is more than just an IT problem. On the contrary, it's a board-level issue; an entire business' revenue, reputation and existence could be at stake. 

With the 'Every Second Counts' live experience, the aim was to bring this worrying, but impactful message home to the entire C-suite. Within this broader target audience, IBM identified two key profiles: 

  • CIOs, who are focused on increasing the productivity of their organisation through technology. They're leading digital transformations by adopting technologies such as Cloud and other IT platforms. They also know the importance of maintaining high levels of security and business resiliency to avoid any disruption/downtime. 
  • CISOs, who are tasked with managing risk and compliance to secure and protect information assets. When a data breach does occur, they're tasked with responding to incidents by establishing rapid-recovery protocols and controls. 

The live experience needed to be engaging, yet convincing, in order to be taken seriously by such a senior, tech-savvy audience. To capture interest and drive engagement, IBM had to be both hard-hitting and believable. Otherwise, the company risked significant blowback to the brand's credibility. 

The martech solution 

Having already recently kicked off the 'Every Second Counts' campaign with YouTube videos — featuring actors playing out two 'nightmare scenarios' for corporate cyber-security breaches - IBM felt it could extend this approach even further within a live event capacity. 

Rather than simply playing these videos to delegates, IBM wanted to immerse itself in a real-time experience, allowing them to feel directly involved in the action. IBM thought it was important the audience have a sense of some of the pressures of a real-life cyber-attack, self-identify with the characters and imagine it could be them in this scenario. 


Core creative content: IBM’s internal team consisted of just two key people. Felicity was selected to present due to her charismatic style and years of industry experience.

Leveraging the production skills of the Purple Agency, they created an interactive dramatisation of a cyber-attack. It highlighted how the breach would impact on all board members in an organisation and the multi-million-dollar consequences of an ineffective response. 

IBM was involved in every aspect of the creative, to ensure the actors felt real/relatable to their customers and stayed true to the narrative. PowerPoint was used as the key technology (as it's widely available) to deliver an experience at live events across the UK and beyond. However, the key differentiator was the detailed planning, development and attention to detail in the execution, stretching the limits to deliver an experience which is real and believable. 

Widening audience/engagement: Due to a tight budget, IBM needed to maximise resources. As this same presentation would be delivered across industry events in the UK, US and Europe, IBM deliberately kept content country-neutral, so it could be easily digested wherever it was presented. 

While the concept was designed primarily for the live event, IBM was able to adapt the content to create a webinar, where the presenter was filmed picture-in picture having the conversations. Key elements and conversation topics from the webinar were extracted and developed into a touch-screen, interactive kiosk demo for use in exhibition areas. 

Timeframe: As mentioned earlier, IBM was faced with an incredibly short time frame from conception to rollout. With planning elements such as storyboarding, casting and rehearsals taking place Jan-March 2019, Felicity would deliver the presentation at its  initial event - Cloud Expo Europe - on 13th March. 

Impact on the business 

Unprecedented interest: Within weeks of the initial event, Felicity's LinkedIn following grew by 5,000 people - an immediate indication that the presentations were resonating with delegates. IBM also began receiving requests to run the presentation at industry events and private meetings with customers/industry influencers. These included an invitation to join a 'Future of Cyber in London' roundtable, organised by the Office of the Mayor of London. 

Consequently, the amount of presentations delivered since initial rollout is currently at 23, versus an original target of five. 

"B2B marketing is sometimes seen as a poor relation — lacking the visibility or the creativity of B2C. However, by really understanding the market, the IBM GTS team has shaped a strategy which really delivers for our business – adopted in the UK, across Europe, and now increasingly in North America and other geographies."

Andrew Fitzgerald, marketing director, Global Technology Services, IBM Europe

Martech Awards 2020

This submission won the award for Best use of martech for live events at the B2B Martech Awards 2020. 

Check out the shortlist here

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