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SONY SITE ENLISTS TPP TO REACH ADVERTISERS; UNUSUAL CHOICE OF WEB SALES REP OPENS ACCESS TO TOP MARKETERS, RANGE OF DEALS

By Published on .

Sony Corp. of America has hired Television Programming Partners as exclusive sales rep for its ambitious Sony Station Web site, an unusual arrangement that will give Sony access to some of the nation's top advertisers.

Sony Station, launching this fall, will offer a virtual environment in which consumers can play games in real time and explore Sony music, movies and entertainment. Sony owns the popular game shows "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" and plans to present online, interactive versions of the games around the clock.

TPP is best known for its consortium of major marketers that produces TV shows. It is not an obvious choice to rep a Web site.

TPP'S PROGRAMMING WON OUT

But TPP's experience in programming ultimately won over Sony, said Matt Rothman, senior VP-general manager of Sony Online Ventures.

"TPP has a relationship with advertisers that other reps couldn't give us," he said.

TPP members-AT&T Corp., Campbell Soup Co., Clorox Co., Coca-Cola Co., Coors Brewing Co., General Motors Corp., McDonald's Corp., Reebok International and Sears, Roebuck & Co.-will have first crack at advertising on Sony Station, said TPP Chairman Jack Myers. The lone exception is TPP partner MasterCard International, blocked because Visa International is a partner in the Sony site.

Visa will tout its foray into cyberspace this fall in TV spots that are part of its current campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York. The advertising will position Visa as the only way to make transactions on Sony Station.

Sony has said it's seeking one-year sponsorships ranging in price from $50,000 to $1 million (AA, March 18). Mr. Rothman said hiring TPP was "like hiring a sales staff" to implement that strategy and supplement it with creative ideas TPP brings to the table.

TPP will offer a variety of plans to advertisers, Mr. Myers said, tied to various promotion and marketing schemes.

`JEOPARDY!' GAME IN WORKS

One such plan involves a "Jeopardy! College Challenge" on the site. Mr. Myers said he hopes to land a title sponsor for the game and then find a third-party book publisher so the game and its sponsor can be promoted in college bookstores.

Another idea would link consumer purchases with advertising. If a user buys a Columbia or Tri-Star video online, for example, and that section of Sony Station is sponsored by AT&T, a mail stuffer about AT&T could be included when the order is shipped.

Mr. Myers said TPP will not represent any other online site.

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