SHARP, THOMSON SWITCH ON $20M CAMPAIGNS

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Windows 95 may be getting the hype, but it's camcorders and satellite TV that will be getting the lion's share of the more traditional consumer electronics ad dollars beginning this week.

Spurred by abundant growth in sales of camcorders with attached LCD viewers and of satellite dishes, as well as the continuing price wars in the TV market, Sharp Electronics Corp. and Thomson Consumer Electronics are planning to spend much of their support dollars on the two products.

Sharp takes out print ads Aug. 30 to launch what is probably its largest ever ad campaign for camcorders to push the Sharp Viewcam that integrates the traditional camcorder with a small TV monitor.

The $20 million campaign from Griffin Bacal, New York, up 10% from last year, uses a new "out with the old cam, in with Sharp Viewcam" theme in a 30-second spot breaking this weekend on network TV and also slated for local airing on radio and TV in 11 larger markets.

Sharp, which introduced the Viewcam in 1993, has seen amazing growth in the Viewcam business in the last year and been copied by competitors. NPD Group's Intelect division, Port Washington, N.Y., says volume sales of all integrated camcorders/viewers in April and May this year were more than triple last year's similar period. Sharp said it sold 200,000 of the units last year and hopes for a 50% gain this year, which would give the units 9% of the $3.1 billion camcorder market in just three years.

Sharp has some big tools to help: some new models and most importantly a rebate that will drop the price of one model to within $200 of more traditional viewfinder camcorders.

The company hopes to use its advertising to expand the market, said Dan Infanti, Sharp's general manager, corporate communications and marketing.

"The spot is very competitive," said Mr. Infanti. "It is showing consumers, that the traditional camcorder is history."

Sharp is advertising the Viewcam to a somewhat different audience than in past camcorder advertising as it finds the camera appeals to a broader, older audience and especially to people who wear glasses and have trouble with normal camera viewfinders.

Thomson too is looking beyond TVs for sales this year.

While some of its ads feature RCA big screen TVs, the major focus this year is a new effort for the DSS satellite dishes that have been a major success for the company and are the foundation for two satellite services, DirecTV and U.S. Satellite Broadcasting. Thomson has shipped 1 million of the 18-inch dishes that have cost $700 and up in little more than a year while the company had exclusive rights to make the dishes. Sony Electronics Corp. now can also sell the dishes.

A $20 million network campaign from Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York, that broke this month features tennis players Pete Sampras and Jim Courier along with RCA mascots Nipper and Chipper.

Thomson too is offering rebates to lower the price of a dish to as low as $600.

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