IBM Touts Deep Blue's Star Power

It may not spur the public relations departments at rivals Sun Microsystems and Oracle into overdrive, but in a survey conducted by Marketing Evaluations/TvQ, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer has achieved a higher "celebrity" status than both Scott McNealy and Larry Ellison.

According to the survey results, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's RS/6000 supercomputer -- perhaps best known for its chess victory in defeating Grandmaster Garry Kasparov three years ago -- has achieved a Q-Score that makes it a celebrity equal with Batman, Austin Powers, rapper LL Cool J, Howard Stern, and Carmen Electra.

What might take some gleam off the glamour of the computer's newfound popular status is that Teletubbies and Count Chocula are also in that same category.

Deep Blue's ranking indicates that awareness and acceptance of the technical culture has slowly seeped into Americans' consciousness and is now mixing in with popular culture to create a new class of superstar, IBM officials said.

Henry Schafer, executive vice president at Marketing Evaluations, agreed, saying he was somewhat intrigued by Deep Blue's showing in the survey and said it indicates technology's growing acceptance in our culture.

"It's part of an interesting phenomena that this computer got its 15 minutes of fame and three years later we are still counting. I think it points to our evolving relationship with technology as it becomes part of everyday life," Schafer said.

As part of the survey, Marketing Evaluations asked Internet users to rank who or what was more familiar to them and/or who or what is more commonly associated with the Internet. About 45 percent said they were familiar with Deep Blue, giving it a Q-Rating of 9, while only 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively, said they knew who Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy were, giving them each a Q-Rating of 6.

When asked where IBM chairman Lou Gerstner finished in the survey, IBM spokespeople said he was not submitted as a possible candidate.

Besides its two victories over Kasparov, what has helped build Deep Blue's popularity is its role on animated TV shows such as Futurama, where it starred as vice president Al Gore's intern; its recurring role as a presidential candidate in journalist John Scheiman's Journal Newspaper Column; and on Mr. T vs. Everything, a Web site featuring Mr. T fighting everything from Deep Blue to Britney Spears.

Q-Scores are derived from a representative mail-in survey of 1,200 Americans living in the continental United States. The names are taken from Marketing Evaluations database, a polling company that has tracked celebrity recognition for 36 years. The score is a measurement used by advertisers to evaluate the popularity held by potential spokespeople or characters.

Offering some context for these latest results, Marketing Evaluations listed Americans with some of the highest Q-Scores, including Albert Einstein with 56, Mickey Mouse with 44, and Elvis Presley with 33.

Results from this year's survey, in order of their finish, include Batman (13), Austin Powers (13), LL Cool J (12) Carson Daly, the MTV-VJ (11), Donald Trump (11), George Steinbrenner (10), Howard Stern (10) Deep Blue (9), Teletubbies (9), Carmen Electra (9), Gilbert Gottfried (8), Larry King (7), and Count Chocula (7).

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