Company Taps Into $600B Market Touting End-of-Millennium Solution

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Capitalizing on corporate America's fear that the year 2000 will deal a body blow to its computer systems, Cap Gemini America Inc., New York, is wielding a direct response campaign promoting its TransMillennium Services, a program to help companies solve date-change problems.


The information-technology consulting firm is looking at a sizable market. Industry experts predict that companies around the world will spend more than $600 billion in the next two years renovating their computer systems to make them compliant with the year 2000.


"This is a highly competitive field that is evolving very rapidly," said Kevin Groome, creative director at Welch Nehlen Groome, Garden City, NY, a marketing firm that caters to hi-tech companies. "Dealing with the year 2000 often seems like a task to which there is no end, but Cap Gemini gets the bulk of the job done in four weeks or less -- and that's what we try to focus on in the ads."


Welch Nehlen Groome, which is the creative force behind Cap Gemini's campaign, designed two print ads illustrating the scope of the task. The ads are appearing in such trade publications as Computerworld, InfoWorld, Software Development Magazine, Year 2000 Journal and Datamation.


"We are staying focused on print and online advertising. This is not a market that we would try to reach by broadcast. We are talking to a relatively select audience," Groome said, noting that the campaign is aimed at chief information officers, corporate application developers and other individuals with an information-technology bent.


The first ad, which runs through the end of January, depicts a grimy, bandaged hand holding a large sewing needle. The copy reads: "Find 30,000 needles in a haystack. Don't miss one. Finish in four weeks. Without bleeding."


The ad offers a 10 percent discount on projects initiated within two weeks, a price quote within 48 hours, a four-week turnaround period and a 100 percent money-back guarantee. Readers are advised to call 1-888-Y2K-TODAY or visit Cap Gemini's Web site at www.usa.capgemini.com/y2k.


The second ad, which begins running later this month and goes until the end of March, plays off the same theme of monumental challenge. A man dressed in army fatigues peels a potato while surrounded by a sea of the vegetables. The copy reads: "How long will your developers renovate Y2K code by hand? … Year 2000 renovation is a punishing task -- especially when you're peeling open one application at a time."


"Many companies are content using in-house teams," Groome said. "The problem is that it's enormously time-consuming and demoralizing. And this is at a time when information-technology managers are really under pressure to keep their employees."


Readers responding to the ads currently receive literature on Cap Gemini's service but will get a CD detailing its program in the near future.


Banner ads are running on computer-oriented Web sites, and Welch Nehlen Groome is in the process of selecting key words relating to the year 2000 on search engines, including Alta Vista, Excite and Lycos.


Groome reports that traffic to the Cap Gemini site has increased 300 to 400 percent; phone calls consistently have been received from well-qualified prospects; and the banner campaign has generated a click-through rate of 3 to 4 percent.


"We find that with banner ads for information-technology campaigns, the click rates tend to be lower than those for consumers. The IT people are usually on the Web at work and don't have time to scoot off on a whim," Groome said. "But this rate is really rivaling that of consumer campaigns and exceeding that of direct mail."
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