Ad of the Day: IBM

The company makes the world's smallest movie with atoms, but that's just the beginning of the story

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IBM and Ogilvy make a big impact with the smallest of building blocks in their latest video, billed as "the world's smallest movie"—a rudimentary stop-motion animation made by IBM scientists using a special microscope they invented to move atoms around on a surface.

The movie, titled "A Boy and His Atom," consists of nearly 250 frames of stop-motion action and tells the simple story of a boy named Atom who dances and plays with an atom. By drawing viewers in with the film (a technological marvel that will no doubt be passed around far and wide), IBM then uses an engrossing behind-the-scenes clip to tell its larger story—about how the company has worked at the nanoscale for decades to explore the limits of data storage, among other things with real-world applications.

Andreas Heinrich, a principle investigator at IBM Research, is the most eloquent voice of the project. "Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic level is a precise science and entirely novel," he says. "At IBM, researchers don't just read about science, we do it. This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world and show everyday people the challenges and fun science can create."

The consequences of IBM's research at the atomic level are also put into useful context—using, fittingly enough, the movies as a gauge. Today's electronic devices need roughly 1 million atoms to store a single bit of data. But IBM researchers have shown that only 12 atoms are actually needed to store one bit. The implications for data storage are astonishing—it means that one day, every movie ever made could be stored in a device the size of a fingernail.

While IBM works on that, it hopes this movie accomplishes a simpler goal: getting kids to love science. As Heinrich says: "If I can do this by making a movie, and I can get a thousand kids to join science rather than go into law school, I'd be super happy."


Client: IBM

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.