Sony Seeks Agency for Corporate Branding Campaign

Sprawling Marketer Talks to IPG, WPP, Omnicom for Silo-Unifying Effort

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As it struggles to transform itself into a digital powerhouse, Sony Corp. is reaching out to multiple ad agencies to create its first corporate branding campaign in years.
The search for an ad agency is being driven by Sony Chief Marketing Officer Andrew House and the marketer is known to have had talks with agencies owned by Interpublic, Omnicom and WPP.
The search for an ad agency is being driven by Sony Chief Marketing Officer Andrew House and the marketer is known to have had talks with agencies owned by Interpublic, Omnicom and WPP.

A common message
The effort will be designed to create a common message for a sprawling company infamous for siloed business units, according to executives familiar with the situation. The search is being driven by Sony Chief Marketing Officer Andrew House and the marketer is known to have had talks with agencies owned by Interpublic Group of Cos., Omnicom Group and WPP Group. Sony has already tapped Omnicom's Wolff Olins to analyze its brand globally and sibling BBDO is said to be seeking the creative business.

A BBDO spokesman declined comment.

"Following a comprehensive global brand analysis by Wolff Olins, we are beginning to explore the possibility of a new branding campaign for Sony," a Sony spokeswoman said. "Sony's brand is one of the company's greatest assets, and through this project we hope to achieve maximum leverage for Sony's businesses, individually and collectively."

Mr. House, who leads Sony's corporate marketing efforts, was named to the then newly created position of chief marketing officer in September 2005. He came from the Sony Computer Entertainment of America division, where he oversaw the marketing of PlayStation and more recently the launch of PSP. He reports to Sony Corp. chairman-CEO Howard Stringer and Ryoji Chubachi, president of Sony Corp. and CEO of Sony Electronics, the company's largest division.

Building the brand's value
While each of the Sony units, including Sony Electronics, SCEA and the music and pictures divisions, aggressively market their products and services, corporate umbrella campaigns and efforts have not been a common practice. Mr. House, in fact, was charged with "building the value of the Sony brand and helping divisions work together," according to a news release announcing his promotion last year.

Sony's biggest division, electronics, which contributes some 70% of its revenue, has had its ups and downs over the past few years. Its LCD flat-panel TVs, digital cameras and camcorders, and computers have some of the strongest brands -- Bravia and Wega, CyberShot and Handycam, and Vaio -- and healthiest market shares in the electronics industry.

However, the ongoing thorn is its lack of any real presence in the digital-music arena. The proud founders of the original portable music player, the Walkman, can't seem to find a product that clicks with consumers, including the Network Walkman, Walkman Circ and (now discontinued) Walkman Bean. Meanwhile, Apple's iPod has an almost stranglehold grip on the MP3 market.

Its latest business woe has been with some of its laptop batteries overheating and catching on fire. Computer makers including Dell, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM/Lenovo and Toshiba have collectively recalled some 7 million computers with faulty Sony batteries. Sony has said it will take financial responsibility for a tab that seems to keep growing from an original estimate of $250 million, and just today said it will directly replace batteries as well.

Limited by siloed behavior
Dean Crutchfield, a principal at Wolff Olins, said that despite Sony's size and global reach, "it's been limited by a consumer-electronics image and siloed behavior. It's got new leadership and it's going to take its rightful place as a leader in the new and emerging digital world."

The size of the media spending and the time frame for the effort is unknown.

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