Ericsson renews consumer ad focus

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Ericsson Mobile Phones returns to TV next year with a renewed, aggressive focus on consumer marketing.

The No. 3 marketer of mobile phones heads back to TV after a 15-month absence from TV ad spending. The commercials, via Y&R Advertising, New York, will augment Ericsson's existing print effort, which highlights specific attributes of its phones.

The TV campaign is part of a larger marketing strategy to speed product introductions and reach younger consumers. For example, Ericsson will target 16-to-22-year-olds with a voice-activated phone; other offerings will appeal to young families.

`DIFFERENT BALL GAME'

"We've made a lot of progress, but the perception is that our product portfolio in 1999 is not as strong as we would have liked," said Jeff Mandell, VP-marketing for Ericsson Mobile Phones. "In 2000, it's a completely different ball game."

Research from Wunderman Cato Johnson, New York, a unit of Young & Rubicam, is helping Ericsson better understand what kinds of products diverse audiences -- ranging from soccer moms to road warriors -- want.

Ericsson also is finalizing plans for the Ericsson Open, formerly the Lipton Open, March 23-April 2 in Miami. The competition marks Ericsson's first year as title sponsor of the fifth-largest tennis tournament in the world. The company has a deal for a five-year sponsorship with an option for five more.

Included in the deal is national TV time on Fox and ESPN. An interactive pavilion showcasing the company's latest products is also being planned, as are on-court promotions and other programs.

"We now have the products to enable us to be much more aggressive about the way we go to market," Mr. Mandell said. "We're going to reintroduce the brand and establish leadership in consumer-oriented and technology-oriented products. We'll speak through our new products."

NEW FEATURES

Nearly all Ericsson's new offerings will receive print support. At least two new products will receive TV treatment, breaking during the ESPN and Fox tennis telecasts.

That duo is Ericsson's T28 World Phone, a credit card-size phone capable of accessing calls all over the world, and the R280, a model with Internet-browsing capabilities. (The Swedish telecom marketer struck a deal with Microsoft Corp. last week making a version of the software company's Microsoft Mobile Explorer the Internet browser of choice on Ericsson mobile phones.)

The consumer campaign, slated to begin early next year, will employ broadcast network and cable TV, outdoor and print; all are in development. Executives declined to reveal the campaign budget, but referred to it as "sizably" increased.

Ericsson spent $33 million in 1998 in measured media for its cell phones, according to Competitive Media Reporting, a 30% drop from 1997 when Ericsson spent $47 million.

`ATYPICAL' PROMO

In the second quarter, Ericsson will introduce an integrated consumer promotion, most likely with a carrier partner. But Mr. Mandell declined to specify details other than to say it promises to be "atypical."

Ericsson Mobile Phones on Dec. 15 also debuts an online store where select handsets, accessories, calling plans and carriers will be available at ericsson.com/phones. The store was designed in-house and with Point.com, Bothell, Wash.

Globally, Ericsson has embarked on a major corporate image effort via Publicis, London (AA, Nov. 29), that's designed to better articulate its position in a market dominated by Nokia and Motorola. While that effort will address the overall brand, it will focus on Ericsson's Network Operator and Service Provider units.

"The consumer handset division is a piece of a much larger organization," Mr. Mandell said, adding that Publicis most likely would develop something that complements what his division is doing.

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