Sony deposits $15 mil in wireless phone effort

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Sony Corp. is breaking its first national U.S. advertising for wireless phones, a $10 million to $15 million campaign. Print ads began appearing late last week and TV spots break May 18.

"Up until now, Sony the brand was selling the product, but we realized that to take the business to the next level, we needed a comprehensive marketing and communications program," said Scott Westover, VP-marketing services, Sony Personal Mobile Communications of America. "We need to build awareness of Sony as a wireless products distributor."

Sony began making and selling wireless phones and pagers four years ago. The electronics company sells most of its product through carriers such as Sprint PCS, but also sells direct to consumers without service hook-up packages via retail stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City.

ENTRENCHED COMPETITION

Sony faces tough competition in the wireless phone category, including Ericsson Cellular Phones, Motorola, Nokia Corp. and Qualcomm Communications. Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia are already heavily entrenched with a combined 65% of the worldwide market. Sony's digital phones are produced by Qualcomm Personal Electronics, a joint venture manufacturing operation by the two companies. Each company then sells the products under its own brand name.

The campaign, created by Matthews/Mark, San Diego, features the theme, "If only they'd talk," and the tagline, "Sony. Now you're talking." TV spots use vignettes bringing together disparate symbols and people, including a Republican elephant and Democratic donkey; cat and dog; parent and teen; umpire and ballplayer; and--in a role-reversal scenario--singers Alice Cooper and Pat Boone.

Michael Mark, former exec VP-creative director at Wells BDDP, New York, and for the past three months president and chief creative officer of Matthews/Mark, said the idea behind the campaign was to show how advanced technology changes people's lives.

TALKING'S EASIER

"The creative idea was `So you can talk on these things, but what does that mean?' " he said. "The benefit is talking is easier. And when people talk, things get done."

The print campaign will run in publications including Newsweek, People, Time and Wired; TV buys include NBC's "Frasier" and "Friends"; Fox's "Ally McBeal" and the National Basketball Association finals on NBC. The campaign will run through summer.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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