RCA-BRANDED LYRA EMBARKS NATIONALLY: PALM-SIZE DEVICE THAT PLAYS MUSIC TUNES IN YOUTH

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Thomson consumer Electronics launches a multimedia campaign in July to promote its new RCA-branded digital audio product, Lyra. With online and offline advertising, it will tout the product as portable, flexible and cool, hoping to attract a broader, younger audience.

Lyra, a palm-size personal digital audio device that plays compressed music files downloaded from a PC, will be available in early September.

Thomson, which markets RCA-branded consumer electronics, also is hoping Lyra will help RCA in the digital audio space.

Sony Electronics has tried to position itself as the digital leader through its consumer electronics and computer products advertising.

Philips Consumer Electronics has emphasized key digital products, such as high-definition TV, in its advertising.

Advertising for Lyra, developed by Thomson's agency of record, Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, kicks off July 19 with a sponsorship of the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Music Awards in New York.

'THE PERFECT VENUE'

"We chose that as a kickoff to generate some prelaunch publicity," said Tom Wardrop, VP-advertising for Thomson. "New York is a major market and the perfect venue; it's a great link to the mentors of our key customers in the music space."

Thomson's primary target audience for Lyra is the 18-to-29-year-old set.

The branding and launch campaign will encompass both online and offline advertising, including consumer print, radio, banners, content sponsorships and keyword links from portals. Spending was undisclosed.

"We will make a significant investment behind the product in both the traditional and online advertising vehicles," Mr. Wardrop said.

Giant Step, a Chicago-based interactive arm of Leo Burnett Co., developed and manages the RCA site (www.rca.com). Thomson chose U.S. Interactive, New York, to develop the Lyra site (www.lyrazone.com), however, because it offered "the expertise we needed in terms of designing the front end and the back end of the site," Mr. Wardrop said.

The site, which will be fully operational by Sept. 1, will include e-commerce capabilities and be linked to RCA's site.

Does Thomson have a marketing challenge in trying to sell something hip and cool when RCA is a rather mainstream brand?

MASS MARKETER CHALLENGE

"We are a mass marketer," Mr. Wardrop said. "So introducing a new, high-tech product is always a challenge for anyone. [Lyra] will give us new opportunities to deliver to the digital audio segment, one in which we are not particularly strong right now. And more important, it will help us to start to build a youth platform that will serve the RCA brand over the long term."

Tandy Corp.'s Radio-Shack recently announced a deal to do away with its house brands of consumer electronics and switch to RCA.

It was unclear, however, whether Thomson will sell Lyra through RadioShack; Thomson will sell the product through its traditional retail outlets as well as

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