Canon puts focus on digital in its latest national TV spot

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Canon USA is riding the digital wave alongside a fleet of other camera companies with a national TV ad supporting its first full-featured consumer digital camcorder.

The 30-second spot, from Dentsu Corporation of America, New York, is Canon's first advertising for a digital camcorder targeting a mainstream consumer audience, said Rick Booth, senior manager-advertising at Canon. The spot broke in early June.

The ad features the palm-size ZR10, which hit store shelves in April at a suggested retail price of $999, making it Canon's lowest-price digital camcorder. "This is truly a consumer product," Mr. Booth said.


Wang Ying, an analyst at Levin Consulting, thinks Canon's brand reputation will boost sales for the ZR10. "Canon cameras have always been viewed as high-quality [products] by consumers," she said.

The new camcorder is equipped with zoom lenses, an image stabilization system to reduce shaking, digital stereo sound and an analog line enabling image transfer and recording from a TV or VCR. It also doubles as a digital still camera, enabling users to edit, store and e-mail images via a single digital cable connected to a computer.

"I think a lot of consumers will give it a try," Ms. Ying said, especially given the price point.

"People are now looking at their computers as a source of entertainment," said Mike Zorich, Canon's senior marketing manager, video division. "Right now the time is really right" to ramp up marketing efforts, he said, because "consumers are no longer unaware of what a digital camcorder is."


At the end of 1999, Canon saw its digital camcorders eclipse its traditional camcorder offerings for the first time, he said. "It's a clear sign that the U.S. is ready for the digital format."

Canon captured a distant third place in the digital camcorder category last year with a 4.8% share, behind Sony Electronics Corp. with 67.5% and JVC with 22.2%, according to NPD Intelect Market Tracking. Canon is following its rivals' lead in pushing digital products. Sony is marketing digital camcorders as part of its $60 million, yearlong digital imaging umbrella campaign through Y&R Advertising, New York (AA, March 20).

Canon's new spot for the ZR10, which is airing on national network and cable this month and will reappear in the fourth quarter, shows how a typical American family can make a Hollywood-quality home movie.

In the tongue-in-cheek ad, the father sits in a director's chair and explains that he wants the movie to "chronicle one family's odyssey through the West." It shows him directing his wife and children in various scenes in Montana, while a voice-over says, "The Canon ZR10 digital camcorder lets you take home movies to a whole new level." It ends with the corporate tagline, "Canon. Know how."

What's most distinctive about the ad, however, is that Dentsu used a Canon professional-level digital camcorder, the XL1, to shoot the spot, instead of using a film-based camera.

Canon highlights the production process in a behind-the-scenes video that it is distributing to retailers "to serve as a testimonial" showing the high video quality possible with digital camcorders, Mr. Zorich said.


Analyst Ms. Ying said this kind of channel marketing is just as important as consumer advertising. "In today's market, if you capture the retail shelves, you have a much better chance to sell your product." The spot can also be viewed on Canon's Web site ( via streaming video.

Although Canon had the No. 3 spot in the digital camcorder category, it did not even rank in the top five in the digital still camera sector, which was dominated by Sony, Olympus America, Eastman Kodak Co., Nikon and Polaroid in 1999, according to NPD. In an effort to compete in that arena, Canon plans to break national TV advertising for its PowerShot line of digital still cameras in the second half of this year, Mr. Booth said.

Although Mr. Booth would not reveal Canon's advertising budget, he said the company has increased spending for its digital offerings. Canon spent $29 million on measured media last year, with less than $1 million devoted to digital, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Mr. Booth said the company is putting several million dollars behind the ZR10 advertising alone, which, coupled with the second-half PowerShot push, represents a marked increase over last year.

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