SONY TARGETS BOOMERS-TURNED-ZOOMERS

$25 Million Campaign Continues Marketer's Consumer-Segmentation Approach

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- They are a maverick generation that redefined what it means to be a teenager, a swinging single and a parent -- so why should their next life stage be any less cataclysmic?

At least that's what Sony Electronics figures, as the electronics giant invites baby boomers to fulfill their life's passions and deferred dreams in a bold ad and marketing campaign breaking Oct. 28.

78 million baby boomers
Targeting "Zoomers," a term originally coined by U.S. News & World Report, is new for Sony. But with up to 34% of the brand's sales coming from consumers ages 50 and older, it's a segment of the population that it can't afford to ignore. The baby-boom generation is defined as adults born from 1946-1964 who account for 78 million people in the U.S., according to American Demographics. In specific terms, an American turns 50 every seven seconds, according to the U.S. Census.

The estimated $25 million effort by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, and sibling unit Brand Buzz includes two TV spots, online buys in the form of editorial vignettes on AOL Time Warner's Time Inc. sites and NationalGeographic.com. Four additional TV spots are planned along with promotional tie-ins with strategic partners.

Sony and the Y&R creative

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team set out to create an anthem for a generation whose children are out of the house and who finally have time to themselves and some discretionary income. A generation known for breaking the rules will "blow away the traditional concepts of being an empty-nester, early retirement and retirement," said Ken Dice, Sony senior vice president of consumer segment marketing.

Consumer segmentation
The Zoomer effort is in keeping with the consumer-segmentation approach to the market Sony embarked on earlier this year. So far, it has unveiled campaigns targeting families, Gen Y, alpha/early adopters and small office/home office and mobile professionals.

Copywriter Mark D'Arcy and Art Director Jaime Ambler, the Y&R creative directors on the account, struggled to come up with a big idea. "The real breakthrough creatively is we're not creating a revolution, it's already happening. ... We wanted to tell stories so that people [say] 'that's me!' and put their fists in the air," Mr. D'Arcy said.

Mr. Ambler interviewed musician David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as one example of a voice from the Zoomer generation. "He wasn't interested in looking back," Mr. Ambler said, but in "forward momentum."

Swimming with sharks
A remake of CSN&Y's "Carry On" is the score to the 60-second "Trip," breaking Oct. 28. Filmed at the Star City Cosmonaut Training Facility outside Moscow and directed by Joe Pytka, the spot tells the story of a 50-ish man liquidating his assets, leaving his business and chasing his dream of going into space. He travels to Russia to train, documenting the trip on a Sony Handycam. It closes with the copy: "When your kids ask where the money went, show them the tape."

A second spot, "Shark," shows a grandmother in her late 50s who films her adventure swimming face-to-face with a shark and then shows it to her quite concerned grown children.

"From a marketing perspective, once people hit retirement or early retirement, these groups are quickly dismissed," Mr. Dice said, a trend exacerbated by networks TV programming that targets 18- to 34-year-olds, or 18 to 49. He cited advertising for Chrysler's PT Cruiser, Ford Motor Co.'s Thunderbird and Cadillac's use of a Led Zeppelin track as exceptions, along with drug, insurance and financial-services ads.

"When we started to think about talking to and engaging [Zoomers]," Mr. Dice said, "we realized that no one created an anthem for this generation."

Mike Vitelli, executive vice president of Sony, who helped develop the marketing platform for the Zoomer campaign, is himself entering Zoomer-hood: He's 47.

"This is a time when anything is possible. There's time for yourself again and it's a time to live life large again," Mr. Vitelli said, adding that he and his wife are excited at the prospect of their son heading to college next year.

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Lisa Sanders contributed to this report.

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