Style Over Smarts: LG and Sprint Pitch Simpler Phones

Campaign Including MTV Miniseries and Celebs Targets Women Who Aren't Buying Smartphones

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) –- Even as Apple promises new features for the iPhone, the industry anticipates the iPhone's arrival on Verizon and Palm retools its marketing strategy, LG and Sprint are starting a campaign aiming for the vast swath of consumers still choosing among simpler phones largely on the question of style.

LG Victoria Beckham ad
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Victoria Beckham's LG Lotus Elite ad.

The campaign and an accompanying MTV miniseries called "LG Fashion Touch" pair two LG phones being introduced April 19, the Lotus Elite and Rumor Touch, with Victoria Beckham and Eva Longoria Parker, respectively. The Lotus Elite is an edgier, more colorful flip phone that suits Ms. Beckham's bombshell look, while the Lotus Elite is a more sleek, classic phone that complements Ms. Longoria Parker's daily style.

The series of branded mini-documentaries directed by Doug Keeve ("Unzipped") began airing on MTV this week between episodes of "The Hills" and "The City," showing the celebrities as they prepare to host an LG fashion event in Los Angeles in May.

A series of print ads shot by Ellen von Unwerth will start appearing in celebrity weeklies such as People, Us Weekly, In Touch, Entertainment Weekly and Life & Style on April 23, while a series of online ads featuring additional footage from the MTV miniseries will appear on sites including Facebook, MSN's WonderWall and PopSugar. The campaign was created with LG's creative agency Young & Rubicam with media activation from Mindshare and additional creative support from Alcone Marketing Group.

The smartphone wars still don't apply to a large group of women, said Ehtisham Rabbani, corporate VP-marketing and innovation at LG mobile phones. "Although there's a large percentage of consumers going to smartphones, there's still another segment who are saying, 'I want phones that reflect my personal style' without all the bells and whistles of a smartphone," he said.

Indeed, only 19.4% of U.S. mobile phone subscribers were using smartphones in the three months ended Feb. 10, compared with 80.6% using simpler devices, according to ComScore.

"We're at a time when consumers are carrying three devices with them at any given time," Mr. Rabbani said, "so if we can be one of those three devices we'll have succeeded."

LG Eva Longoria ad
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Eva Longoria Parker's LG Rumor Touch ad.

The LG campaign furthers the trend of A-list celebrity spokespeople becoming more directly involved with branded content, from Whoopi Goldberg's recent series of webisodes for Kimberly-Clark's Poise to Marisa Tomei's appearance in Bertolli pasta's "Into The Heart Of Italy" for Magical Elves and Mindshare Entertainment and "90210" album Jennie Garth hosting NBC.com's "Garden Party" for sponsor Hidden Valley Ranch.

It's also LG's latest campaign to incorporate style celebrities, following previous forays with "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano and host Heidi Klum.

Kevin Kleber, VP-group creative director at Alcone, said the goal for this campaign was to align the new phones with counterpart celebrities who already had a built-in dynamic. "Eva and Victoria are personal friends, so they had a natural chemistry that spoke to our built-in story of social connectivity. We didn't want the campaign to feel like it was two celebrities smashed together."

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