Sony again turns to Plato to attract Gen Y

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Plato, Sony Electronics' furry blue ambassador to Gen Y, today is back as the star of an integrated ad campaign promoting Sony's portable digital products.

The estimated $10 million to $15 million TV, online and retail campaign features Plato enjoying summer with Sony's Net MD Walkman, ATRAC CD Walkman and Cybershot digital camera. The effort was created by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, and its Brand Buzz unit.

Sony began the campaign early in order to make a bigger impact. "We're targeting the high school senior before he goes to college," said Derek Koenig, director-consumer segment marketing, Sony Electronics.

Sony extended its media buy this year beyond Viacom's MTV to Walt Disney Co.'s ABC broadcasts of the X Games, Comedy Central, Disney's ESPN, Fox Sports and other cable properties. Also new are tie-ins with surfer fashion house Quiksilver, and Bolt.com, Sony's partner for a series of online challenges with prizes attached.

A couple of TV spots, which will run through mid-September, feature Plato and his pals wearing Quiksilver. The surf-wear maker will also promote Sony digital products in its stores and on its concert tour.

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One unique element of the campaign is the online "Sony Summer Challenge," which kicks off in July. Sony's TV and online ads are tagged with a Web address to drive Gen Y online to participate in six challenges. One challenge, for example, may ask participants to submit digital images of their favorite skateboarding or snowboarding maneuvers. Winners receive Sony and Quiksilver prizes.

Separately, Sony is exploring non-advertising opportunities for its Plato property including TV, Web and other media. "We are exploring the creation of alternative content," Mr. Koenig said, though he declined to confirm the existence of a TV pilot and wouldn't specify Sony's potential media and agency partners. One of Sony's partners is MTV; Viacom Productions has shot footage of Plato for a potential TV project, according to people familiar with the matter.

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