SONY'S VIDEOGAME MAY GIVE NEW SHOP A SHOT

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As Sony Corp. lines up the marketing team for its PlayStation videogame, an account review for the new product's advertising looks likely later this year.

Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Santa Monica, Calif., will probably seek an agency outside Sony's current roster to handle the estimated $20 million account for the PlayStation, due in the U.S. next year.

Last week, Sony refused to confirm reports that it has already contacted a handful of agencies about a review for the PlayStation account.

Sony is saying for the record that there's no certainty now that Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, agency for Sony Electronic Publishing, has a lock on the videogame account as was previously assumed by some agency insiders.

Freeman currently handles advertising for Sony Software, which has published more than 100 videogame titles since 1991.

"We haven't said Cliff Freeman & Partners is handling the video-game account because we're not far enough along in the process of putting together a marketing program," said Peter Dille, VP-marketing for Sony Electronic Publishing.

Neither will Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, agency for Sony's other consumer electronics, get anywhere near the PlayStation account.

Burnett also handles Nintendo of America's $50 million account-and Nintendo has made it clear that it won't hesitate to find a new agency for its account if Burnett takes on any computer entertainment business from Sony.

"It would be unacceptable to us if our agency were working on Sony's videogames, but we've been reassured they're not," said George Harrison, director of marketing and corporate communications for Nintendo.

Although a potential conflict has been ruled out for now, the existence of Sony and Nintendo brands under one agency roof will likely remain a point of friction for both clients.

Burnett said its work for Sony remains completely separate and independent of the Nintendo videogame account, but its position may become more difficult as Sony and Nintendo go head-to-head next year.

Mr. Ville said it's "too early" to speculate on whether or when a review for the PlayStation account would be announced, as key marketing executives aren't yet in place.

Last month, Sony named Stephen Race, a former executive with Atari, Worlds of Wonder and Reebok International, to the new post of exec VP-general manager of its Computer Entertainment division. Mr. Race is now "rounding out" a marketing department.

Melanie Wells contributed to this story.

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