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electronics, computing. PHILIPS SPENDS BIG IN U.S., BETS ON A DIGITAL FUTURE MERGED PHILIPS MAGNAVOX BRAND GETS $40 MIL EFFORT

By Published on .

With the launch of its biggest U.S. ad campaign ever, Philips Electronics is converging, and emerging.

Philips, betting its future on the marriage of consumer electronics and computing, in coming months will introduce a string of Internet and digital devices. In the U.S., it is combining brand names into the new Philips Magnavox.

On Oct. 3, Philips launched an estimated $40 million-plus, yearlong U.S. TV campaign to unveil the merged brand and stake a position as an emerging digital leader. The new U.S. brand combines the global Philips with the well-known U.S. Magnavox.

FOCUS ON TV ADS

While Philips begins a small magazine and newspaper effort Oct. 28, it is focusing on network and cable TV. Philips has a heavy holiday schedule, but it vows to sustain advertising year-round far more than in the past.

Starting with three 15-second teaser spots, the campaign expands the week of Oct. 20 with three :30s and an unlikely pitchman played by a 77-year-old actor.

Actor Dan O'Herlihy, in the role of what Philips executives call the "wise man," enthuses about how new technologies like the Internet are opening up the world. Like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp in IBM Corp.'s 1980s PC ads, he will coax the masses to try Philips' tools for modern times.

"In electronics, usually you go younger, hipper," but Philips decided an old character offers more of a "perspective on life," said Michael Keel, VP-advertising at Philips Consumer Electronics Co., a U.S. arm of Dutch giant Philips Electronics.

Mr. O'Herlihy is the second old-but-youthful pitchman of the fall season: Nissan Motor Corp. USA's new brand campaign features the sprightly "Mr. K."

Philips will devote its fourth-quarter budget to Mr. O'Herlihy's three spots promoting the new Philips Magnavox Internet TV Terminal, a $330 TV add-on for surfing the Web.

Philips flopped with Compact Disc-interactive, and Edward Volkwein, senior VP-marketing and sales, acknowledged the risk of focusing on an unproven product in the overhyped, unproven Web appliance market.

PINNING FUTURE TO DIGITAL

But Mr. Volkwein said Philips is staking its future on digital devices, not any one product. Next year, he said, Philips will roll out other digital products including hand-held computing devices and Digital Video Disc players.

Said Mr. Keel: "This is really a long-term umbrella campaign under which any number of Philips Magnavox digital products can reside."

Philips' new president, Cor Boonstra, is pushing the more aggressive global marketing. Philips research found consumers see a few brands-including AT&T, IBM and Microsoft-as leaders in the consumer digital revolution.

"People like HP, Compaq, ourselves are still in the `Maybe they will, maybe they won't' category," Mr. Volkwein said.

This is the first U.S. consumer effort from Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York. Philips has consolidated globally at Euro RSCG.

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