Electronic Data Systems

Author:Frank Caso
Pages:501-504
 
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5400 Legacy Drive

Plano, Texas 75024

USA

Telephone: (800) 566-9337

Web site: www.eds.com

CAT HERDERS CAMPAIGN

OVERVIEW

Although Electronic Data Systems (EDS), the Plano, Texas-based company founded by H. Ross Perot in 1962, was the acknowledged inventor of the information technology (IT) services industry, by the end of the twentieth century EDS, despite continued growth, had fallen behind its competitors—especially regarding its public image. To correct that, EDS chose Fallon McElligott (later Fallon Worldwide), an independent Minneapolis ad agency, as its lead agency in May 1999. Fallon, in conjunction with new corporate management at EDS, saw its mission as changing the EDS image not only with respect to the company's present and future customers but also for EDS employees, whose morale was low. The ad campaign set out to do this by creating brand awareness where either none had existed or the awareness had petrified over the years.

"Cat Herders" (the name applies to the initial television spot and the campaign), which played off the industry expression "it's like herding cats," served both these purposes. It gave EDS employees an image that was serious, despite the humor of the commercial, and it highlighted EDS's problem-solving capabilities for its customers. The initial campaign used television, print, the Internet, and the COMDEX trade show at a cost of approximately $8 million. The campaign was presented as a trilogy. The first television spot, "Cat Herders," was a huge success, while the second and third spots, "Airplane" and "Running with the Squirrels," were eye-catching follow-ups but lacked the impact of the initial spot.

The "Cat Herders" spot ran through 2001 and won numerous awards, including an Emmy Award nomination. EDS also enjoyed an improvement in employee morale and corporate image, along with new contracts and acquisitions. In 2000 EDS reported fourth-quarter earnings of $5.2 billion, a 5 percent increase from the previous year and a new quarterly high for the company.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, EDS experienced phenomenal growth and was the recognized leader in the IT services industry, enjoying government, military, and commercial contracts. In 1984 EDS became a division of General Motors (GM), and three years later, when EDS celebrated its 25th anniversary, it reported global revenues of $4.4 billion. In 1996 EDS severed its relationship with GM and once again became an independent company. The 1990s, which saw the rise of the dot-com businesses, was a decade in which EDS slipped behind newer competitors in the race for customers. Although EDS expanded globally throughout the decade, its image was that of a lumbering dinosaur whose primary ties were to the military. In an October 2000

article, Associated Press writer David Koenig quoted then EDS president and chief operating officer Jeffrey M. Heller on the company's decline. "By '96," Heller said, "technology had changed and skills had changed. We didn't change fast enough." Koenig noted that 1996 was also the year that IBM overtook EDS as leader in the IT services industry, though the computer giant had only been in the industry a few years.

Events leading to the EDS ad campaign trilogy occurred quickly in 1999. In January Richard Brown was named chairman and CEO. Fallon was chosen as lead agency, and Don Uzzi, named marketer of the year in 1995, came on board. Almost from the beginning Uzzi injected a bold style...

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