A Remarkable Partnership Comes to an End

March 21, 2018

A relationship is a collection of many one-of-a-kind moments. And we are grateful to IBM for so many of those.

Seventeen years ago, we began a journey as “One Blue,” the name given to our Ketchum-led, multi-agency solution – one that would lead to many lifelong industry friendships, a high volume of award-winning work, and the continued evolution of technology and corporate reputation expertise across more than 20 countries.

A week ago, IBM began a review of its agency roster. We participated in the initial written phase because we are incredibly proud of the work we’ve done. Yesterday we learned that we did not advance to the second round, so our long relationship will come to an end.

Ketchum could not be prouder of a client relationship that helped reposition IBM several times in the marketplace, from a focus on computer hardware to software and services, and today, to a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company.

And we are proud to have worked closely with them on so many milestone moments in this industry – the acquisition and integration of PWC consulting, the launch of Smarter Planet, the introduction of Watson, the IBM Centennial celebration and its record-breaking global Day of Service, the Apple-IBM partnership, and most recently, building leadership and mainstream recognition for IBM in IoT innovation, blockchain, cybersecurity and in thought leadership platforms like data responsibility and new collar jobs.

Although the decision has been made for this journey to come to an end, we remain immensely proud of the results achieved through working side-by-side with IBM to gain recognition for their differentiators in advanced technology, industry expertise and trust and security. At the heart of our work was delivering incredible major media results, including, most recently, coverage in NBC Nightly News, the Megyn Kelly TODAY segment and Financial Times.

A few of the highlights that we take away from this longstanding relationship:

  • The opportunity to work on – and learn about — breakthrough technology and its application to affect change across business and society as best captured in IBM’s Smarter Planet and Smart Business initiatives, which aligns closely with Ketchum’s values as an agency.
  • The inspiration to always bring our best thinking and embrace endless opportunities to learn by working with a client whose motto is a simple, single word: Think.
  • The role of helping to translate IBM’s value to many stakeholders, including influencers, investors and the media, ranging from earned to shared to owned channels.
  • And the reminder that this business is and always will be a relationship business. The Ketchum/IBM partnership was more than just a business arrangement – we became a family that shared the moments that matter – births and weddings and yes, even illnesses and the passing of beloved members of our two teams.

Ketchum is grateful for the outpouring of well wishes and accolades from IBMers throughout the world over the past 24 hours.

We thank IBM for our partnership and wish all IBMers the best as you embark on a new era and we embark on ours. We salute the formidable talent at both IBM and Ketchum that continues to drive outstanding results through the transition.

Barri Rafferty is Ketchum’s former CEO and current head of communications at Wells Fargo.


Rob Flaherty is Chairman of Ketchum, the global communications consultancy with 130 offices and affiliates worldwide. He is on the board of the Arthur W. Page Society, the Institute for Public Relations and the advisory board of Room to Read, which focuses on literacy and girls education in developing nations. Follow Rob on Twitter at @flahertyrob.