Sony's $50 mil Aiwa biz in review

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Sony Corp. is on the hunt for an agency to handle worldwide advertising worth $50 million for one of its latest acquisitions, Aiwa Co.

Sony plans to aggressively relaunch the Aiwa brand worldwide and position its line of audio electronic equipment as equal to Sony products, but targeting younger consumers. According to industry executives, agencies pitching in the review-which is being conducted from Sony's Berlin office-include: Strawberry Frog, Amsterdam; Omnicom Group's Arnell Group and Ketchum Public Relations and Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, all New York. Independent Wieden & Kennedy, London is also believed to be in the review.

Sony spokesman John Piazza would not confirm the agencies. Executives at Fallon and Arnell confirmed their participation. Executives at the other agencies would not comment or did not return calls. Sony also will conduct a search for regional agencies to handle Aiwa co-op advertising in the U.S. That portion of the review has not yet begun, Mr. Piazza said.

Sony acquired Aiwa last December, amid a worldwide sales slump in the electronics market. Sony hopes to reposition Aiwa as an audio and video brand, with a new line announced next week. PC-entertainment products, such as MP3 players, will be introduced by summer and will be the primary focus, Mr. Piazza said.

For Gens X and Y

The first thrust of the campaign, which will feature a redesign of the Aiwa logo, will appear in the U.S. The campaign will position Aiwa as an affordable and edgy youth brand, with simple products meant for use in one's own "private space" and designed for individual lifestyles. "They will have cool design ... for Gen Y to Gen X consumers," Mr. Piazza said.

Sony has created an internal marketing unit called Aiwa Strategic Accounts Partnership (ASAP), which is guiding the strategy. ASAP is based in San Diego, Calif., near Sony's IT Network operations. Hiro Takahashi, who was named president of the group earlier this year, leads the unit. Mr. Takahashi is a 20-year Sony veteran, who was previously a senior marketing strategist at the company's global marketing headquarters in Tokyo.

WPP Group's Young & Rubicam is said to not be in the pitch, as it handles Sony Electronics advertising. According to an executive at the agency, the Aiwa brand is considered a conflict with its Sony business, even though the latter owns the former.

Founded in Japan in 1951, Aiwa is often cited as the first Japanese manufacturer of cassette-tape equipment and digital audio-tape products.

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