CDW Shows Off Broader Experience Sans Barkley

For the past several years, CDW’s marketing has revolved around the idea that it has been able to help the fictional company of Gordon & Taylor (which performed unknown services) overcome the technical-support limitations of employee Charles Barkley. But for other companies with complex problems, that idea may not have been relatable. 

This year, Barkley is out as the face of CDW as the company looks to tell deeper stories about how it has been able to help businesses from a number of different industries meet unexpected tech challenges. The new campaign, from agency Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, is set to air during the NCAA basketball tournament beginning this week. 



The campaign retains the brand’s humorous tone and “People who get IT” theme, but delves deeper into the real problems a business might face and how CDW (and its partners) can solve them. The new campaign uses the of “orchestration” to show how CDW brings together the right people, partners and solutions. 

“We wanted to do more storytelling,” Dean Lamb, director of marketing at CDW, tells Marketing Daily. “We were somewhat narrow in our scope [before]. It was really around a business focus, and we wanted to talk more about CDW’s role.”

One commercial, for instance, shows a “bunch of dreamers” looking into a starry sky. Those dreamers are shown to be rocket scientists embarking on a bold new project using collaboration tools from Intel “to make science simple for actual rocket scientists” and a mission-control celebration. “Before any of this,” a voiceover explains, “CDW orchestrated a collaboration solution using PCs with Intel 6th Gen, Core-V processors.” (The spot also features Intel’s signature brand tones and logo at the end.) Other spots tell the story of an aging rock band whose reunion tour sells out in three minutes (but does so seamlessly thanks to Cisco and CDW) and a shoe company whose online traffic goes through the roof (with the help of CDW and VMware) when an actress throws an on-set tantrum that ends up lodging a stiletto heel in a wall. 

“We still wanted to retain the humor,” Lamb says. “But there’s a human side to these commercials.”

Though Barkley is gone, the company is continuing to time its major marketing push to the NCAA tournament, as it has for the past several years. The reason: it’s a time when the company’s most valuable customers are reachable, Lamb says. 

“A significant portion of the IT decision-maker audience is engaging with the NCAA tournament,” Lamb says. “We look at that as key to our strategy in order to effectively and efficiently reach our audience.”

In addition to the television commercials, the campaign will include a heavy presence during radio broadcasts of the NCAA tournament games and digital elements, Lamb says.

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