Sony readies spots touting digital devices

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The economy's sputtering, layoffs are mounting but people just want to have fun, right? That's what Sony Electronics is banking on as it prepares to introduce the latest phase of a platform-based integrated marketing approach that will showcase a raft of new digital home-entertainment, personal audio/video and computing products.

Sony's marketing strategy and a series of new ads created by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York and Irvine, Calif., are the focus of a media event set for April 25 in New York. Executives are expected to outline the goals of Sony's platform strategy, which the company embarked on a year ago with Y&R, as well as WPP sibling Impiric, New York, and Brand Buzz, its guerilla-marketing unit.

The strategy involved creating broad category umbrellas under which networked digital devices and services could live. Sony's most recent advertising and marketing emphasized links between home-entertainment products such as TVs, DVD players, home-theater components and other pieces.

The ads, direct-marketing and retail-promotion efforts included its Wega TVs, Vaio computer products, digital camcorders and the Memory Stick Walkman to promote the benefits of connected devices. Those connections are facilitated through Sony technologies including Memory Stick, iLink and broadband network services that have yet to deploy.

Now, the consumer-electronics giant will evolve the strategy and the creative accompanying it by tapping into consumers' visceral feelings about Sony. For example, the home-entertainment platform, formerly referred to in advertising as the Sony Home Entertainment Universe, will now be referred to as "A place called Sony." The new positioning is intended to convey a heightened experience of fun, said a person familiar with the effort.

An introductory TV spot will be screened at the event. Four additional spots will air in May, signaling Sony's efforts to promote home entertainment much earlier in the year; normally its push starts in fall as a runup to the holidays.

Advertising for portable devices such as the Walkman is expected to continue using "The Walkman Has Landed" theme. It was unclear how the platform for Sony's San Diego, Calif.-based Personal Network Solutions Co., through which Vaio computers, Clie handhelds, digital camcorders and still cams are marketed, will change. A spot for Vaio computers was shot in Nepal.

Sony recently broke a commercial illustrating the convergence between digital camcorders and Vaio PCs with the 30-second "Basketball," created by Y&R, Irvine, which handles the personal networks advertising. The spot, which aired during the NCAA Finals, was shot in Alaska and featured a young basketball player who creates a video of himself shooting hoops, edits it and then writes to Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski. The heart-tugging spot includes voice-over in which the boy suggests that he doesn't know if he's good enough to play for Duke, the NCAA champions. The spot aired during the Finals, but will continue through the year.

The budget on the integrated efforts is flat for its fiscal year that started April 1. Last year, Sony Electronics spent an estimated $120 million in North America. Revenue from Sony's computer and consumer-electronics divisions grew by about 15% in the U.S. during the fiscal year that ended March 31, Sony Electronics' President Fujio Nishida reported recently. Financial results won't be released until later this month. Tokyo-based Sony has reorganized into seven network companies: digital telecommunications, semiconductors, core technologies, displays, home, broadband solutions and mobile network.

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