In the 1950s, Stockholm-based Ericsson became involved in the very early stages of the mobile communications industry, launching its first mobile phone, which weighed almost 90 lbs. In 1965, Ericsson introduced an automatic mobile-phone system, and the company continued making innovations throughout the 1970s, developing a 20 lb. mobile phone in 1974. By the 1990s, Ericsson was a world leader in the global telecommunications equipment arena with a prominent presence in the fast-growing mobile communications industry.
Localized ad strategy
Well into the 1990s Ericsson's advertising strategy was localized and focused on business clients. In 1993, the company launched an image and product campaign for its hardware and services businesses that included 14 European countries. The campaign included print ads from Ted Bates Advertising, Copenhagen, which ran first in Germany, France and the U.K. By the middle of the decade, Ericsson was the world's largest supplier of mobile phone systems and the No. 3 marketer of handsets.
In 1996, Ericsson consolidated its $40 million worldwide mobile phone account at Young & Rubicam as it began shifting its focus from business clients to consumers. In one of its first efforts to reach a consumer audience, Ericsson became the "name sponsor" of the Ericsson Stadium, home to the National Football League's Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
In September 1996, Ericsson launched a second round of consumer-awareness ads for its cellular phones in an effort to make its brand a household name. The ads, created by Y&R affiliate Creswell, Munsell, Fultz & Zirbel, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, depicted people who needed phones in unusual situations.
Ericsson was also making inroads into Latin America in 1996, using TV to deliver a barrage of short messages and sponsor identifications to an upscale audience. The blitz was reinforced with outdoor boards in high-traffic urban markets throughout the region.
Ericsson closed 1996 by awarding CIA Medianetwork Europe its $25 million corporate and business-to-business account for continental Europe. The account had previously been split between Carat and Zenith Media.
In 1997, Ericsson continued its effort to reach a consumer audience, with an estimated $40 million, six-week campaign coinciding with the launch of its GF788 digital mobile phone, which at the time was the smallest the company had ever produced. The ads, developed by Hall & Cederquist Y&R, Stockholm, and Dentsu Y&R, Singapore, aimed to illustrate the phone's small size by juxtaposing it with everyday objects. The tagline in the ads was, "So small, it will change your perspective." The campaign helped the GF788 become Ericsson's best-selling mobile phone.
By 1998, as Ericsson faced increasing competition from rivals Nokia and Motorola, consumer products accounted for approximately 80% of its external advertising. The company's primary focus during the year was its first global brand-image campaign, "Make Yourself Heard," from Y&R. The campaign was designed to be "borderless" and have a long lifespan.
In November 1998, Ericsson broke onto Advertising Age International's list of the top 100 global marketers, at No. 68. In addition, Ericsson was listed as the biggest advertiser in a separate ranking of ad spending in international print media.
Ericsson continued its efforts to target business customers. In April 1999, Ericsson Digital Wireless Office Services began a print and Web campaign for MobileAdvantage, a wireless communications network that eliminated the need for mobile workers to maintain a wired phone and phone number at the office. Anderson & Lembke, New York, created the ads.
The year turned out to be a tumultuous one for Ericsson, though; the company faced management churn, corporate restructuring and a volatile telecommunications market. After taking an early lead in the mobile communications market, Ericsson struggled to increase the pace of product introductions. In addition, the company was losing market share in the global wireless handset market.
Ericsson made several moves in the latter half of 1999 to combat its difficulties. It appointed Torbjorn Nilsson to senior VP-marketing and strategic business development. In October, Ericsson named Publicis as lead agency to handle its global account for infrastructure; Y&R kept Ericsson's consumer projects.
At the end of the year, Ericsson Mobile Phones began planning a global brand campaign with Publicis. The company also appointed CIA Medianetwork International, London, to develop its media communication strategy worldwide and to handle all the company's business-to-business marketing activities.
New marketing goals
In 2000, Ericsson's marketing goals included clarifying its brand message, speeding product introductions and reaching a younger audience. After being absent from TV advertising for 15 months, the company launched an estimated $20 million campaign from Y&R to promote a new Internet phone, the R280LX, and its T28 world phone.
During 2000, Ericsson became the title sponsor of the Ericsson Open, the No. 5 tennis tournament in the world. Ericsson signed a five-year sponsorship deal for the tournament, which had previously been known as the Lipton Open.
Like other wireless companies, in 2000 Ericsson initiated efforts to become an advertising medium itself. In February, the company launched a wireless version of its Internet Advertiser software used by Internet service providers to offer ad-supported Internet access. Using the software, ISPs are able to push targeted ads to wireless devices.
Ericsson also bought a 29% stake in Mediatude, a company specializing in targeted mobile marketing services, in August 2000. Ericsson and Mediatude sent more than 100,000 messages to 5,000 users in a six-week consumer trial.
At the end of 2000, Ericsson put its $100 million global consumer products account, which had been handled for four years by Y&R, up for review. The company announced in February 2001 that the account would go to Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London.
Bartle Bogle also was assigned a startup venture, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, a London-based mobile phones operation created by Ericsson and Sony in April 2001 to boost both companies' handset operations. BBH’s viral efforts brought Sony Ericsson into the national spotlight when a controversy arose over the use of actors posing as tourists in three cities who asked bystanders to take their pictures, a ploy decried by consumer advocates as crossing the line.