A Sony Xmas is flat, sleek and stylish all over

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Sony Electronics this week debuts the first of several key advertising and integrated marketing campaigns estimated at more than $50 million combined as the consumer electronics giant revs for the traditional fourth-quarter shopping spree.

The multifaceted efforts include TV, print, online, outdoor and direct marketing and support a diverse crop of products -- Sony's elegant Wega TVs, Cyber-shot digital camera, Vaio notebook and desktop PCs and Clie handheld organizer -- to evoke a stylish, lifestyle-oriented sensibility.

FOR WEGA TV

The first-ever dedicated ad effort for Sony's Wega TV sub-brand breaks today with a 30-second spot created by Y&R Advertising, New York, that will run in heavy rotation through January. The surreal "Desert" was shot in Spain and London and shows a tumbleweed rolling through the desert as kids' voices echo in the background. Viewers then see kids jump into a swimming pool and, when the camera pulls away, they notice the action took place within the context of a Wega TV. Voice-over, with thunderous music, is "Sony Wega."

"We're trying to create broader awareness for Wega," said Chris Fawcett, director of marketing communications for Sony Electronics' Home Network Products Co. The brand spot comes as competitors including Hitachi, Philips Electronics and Samsung Electronics create their own buzz for advanced flat picture tube TVs.

"There's a lot of `me-too' out there," said Corey Basso, global client leader at Y&R. "The feeling [the campaign evokes] is that Wega offers a window into a better world and if you buy a Wega, it's both an escape and it's exhilarating," he said.

The spot, part of an estimated $20 million to $30 million print, outdoor and event marketing campaign, will run on cable networks such as A&E and CNN and on broadcast TV in prime time, and during NFL broadcasts on CBS and Fox.

Sony's Personal Network Solutions Co. is launching its first integrated ad and marketing effort for Vaio computers this week which also support recently enhanced direct sales operations. The initiative includes direct response TV, print, e-mail and direct mail. Y&R's Impiric, New York, created the direct response TV; Impiric, San Francisco, handled direct mail, print and e-mail. One million pieces of direct mail, with one execution dedicated to Vaio desktops and one to the notebooks, hit in early December.

The direct response TV effort is based on four different versions of "Airport Security," a TV spot that's running currently promoting a Vaio notebook PC, but integrates different action sequences to flag different Sony products: Vaio Slimtops, Digital Studios, F Series and Z505 notebook PCs. The spot purports to show the envy people feel when they see the compact, elegantly styled Vaio notebook PC.

DELAYING TAKEOFF

One of the new :60 direct response spots portrays the inside of an airplane, with travelers taking such an interest in one new owner's Vaio notebook, that takeoff is delayed. The four direct spots break this week and run on cable networks such as ESPN, Comedy Central and the SciFi Channel. The spots will direct viewers to a dedicated Web site and a toll-free number.

"Traditionally, our direct efforts have only been somewhat integrated into traditional advertising with just product information, now we are actually allowing people to see the product and call us directly or go to the Web site," said Ken Dice, VP-marketing communications for Sony's Personal Network Solutions Co.

Building greater brand awareness also is a goal of the direct response TV. "The Vaio brand is one we're starting to see stretch across a variety of targets, it represents a sense of personal style, whether it's a businessperson or not -- it's kind of like wearing an Armani suit -- people start to look at you differently," Mr. Dice said. Beyond style, Sony also is driving a product integration message. Its Vaio PCs sync up with digital cameras and enable photo and movie editing as well as music downloads. Sony's portable memory stick media also allow consumers to easily store and swap all of it.

IN NOVEMBER

Three-page print ads promoting Vaio hit 10 computer-related titles, including PC Magazine and Wired, starting in November issues. The Vaio PC marketing effort alone comes to nearly $12 million.

The first of five provocative new print ads for Sony's Cyber-shot digital cameras, from Y&R Advertising, San Francisco, also break this week and use a high-tech/high-fashion approach reminiscent of the angle used by Samsung Electronics and AG Worldwide, New York, a couple of years ago, with the Samsung "microwave man."

One execution features a buff male clad only in white fur trousers, a Cyber-shot draped sensuously around his neck. Additional executions feature a downtown girl clutching a Cyber-shot as a handbag, a diver using one as a scuba mask and other fashion-forward images. "Sony now has a digital camera that is so small and so stylish it can go with you everywhere; it can become part of your personal style," Mr. Dice said.

PLANNING AHEAD

The handheld Clie organizer, based on the Palm operating system software, also is a Sony star in spread ads via Y&R, San Francisco, running through January in nearly 20 magazines such as Esquire, Vanity Fair and Yahoo! Internet Life. The executions highlight different lifestyle applications for Clie, such as wedding or vacation planning, rather than purely business/productivity functions. Four different page ads are booked in a dozen monthlies and weeklies.

"The Cyber-shot and Clie are small, light and easy to use -- we're trying to translate technology into personal lifestyle and bring people in who aren't traditionally interested in productivity [applications]," Mr. Dice said.

Direct mail and e-mail marketing efforts for the Cyber-shot and Clie are handled by Impiric and are set to be unfurled from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

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