Replay tunes in $25 mil effort to take on TiVo

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Couch potatoes rule in a $25 million ad campaign for Replay Networks' personal TV service, set to break May 1.

Replay's service allows consumers not only to pause live TV, but to digitally record and store favorite programs to view at their leisure. Matsushita Electric Corp. of America's Panasonic brand markets the set-top box that enables the service. TiVo, Replay's primary competitor, also markets a personal TV service.

CONSUMER CONTROL

Replay, via Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, will break three 30-second TV spots, along with print and outdoor, to position the brand as entertaining and inventive. The Content Project, Los Angeles, handles online advertising.

"The main take-away is that ReplayTV gives the consumer complete power over live television. . . . You can pause it, do live instant replays and you can search for programs," said Buzz Kaplan, exec VP-sales and marketing.

Two of the TV spots are co-branded with Panasonic using the line "ReplayTV Showstopper from Panasonic." A third spot is Replay branded.

SOBRIETY TEST

One spot, a takeoff on reality-based cop shows, shows a police car pulling into a trailer park where a man in a motorized wheelchair points to a bald and shirtless mustachioed man standing across the street. Viewers see the man's license plate with the phrase "Question Authority," and a partially obscured barking dog.

The officer tells the man he's going to administer a sobriety test, then shows what the man has to do: stand with his arms apart, tilt his head back and touch his nose with his finger. The man ends up touching the officer's nose and falls to the ground laughing. A replay icon appears on the screen, illustrating one of the features of Replay's service, and the wacky scene is repeated. The voice-over: "Instant replay. It's mostly for sports. Mostly."

Another ad demonstrates the service's ability to pause live TV with a simulated live boxing event. The pause symbol appears on the screen as the boxing action stops. When the button goes off, action resumes. Voice-over: "It pauses live TV. Weird, isn't it?"

"Our goal was to make each spot as absolutely realistic as possible," Mr. Kaplan said.

TV IN 5 MARKETS

The TV spots will run on national cable and spot TV in Chicago, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco during prime-time entertainment, sports, news and late-night programming. Advertising will extend nationally in the fourth quarter.

Print ads break in May issues of magazines, including Forbes, Money, Sports Illustrated and Wired; and on May 1 in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Print ads use the tag "Some televisions have all the fun." Replay hasn't decided whether to use the tag on-air.

"We explain that ReplayTV is not a VCR," Mr. Kaplan said, "because when people hear about our product, they think it's a turbocharged VCR. That would be wrong."

The set-top box stores up to 30 hours of programming on a hard disk, not a tape. A 20-hour unit has a suggested price of $499.99 and the 30-hour unit is $599.99. The service and box will be available direct via a toll-free phone number, the Web (replaytv.com), e-tailers and consumer electronics stores. Competitor TiVo's equipment costs less; TiVo, however, charges a monthly service fee, which Replay does not.

A 30-minute infomercial breaks in test on April 29 via Respond2 Marketing, Portland, Ore.

In November, Replay dropped USWeb/CKS (now MarchFirst), San Francisco, for Riney, in seeking to create a bolder identity. The company filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission Jan. 26, signaling its intent to go public.

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