Upgrade for RCA TV brand

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Thomson Multimedia's bid to reposition the venerable RCA brand gets a lift in a print and online campaign breaking next month from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York.

The launch of the RCA Scenium sub-brand marks a play by Thomson to sell its advanced digital consumer electronics products to upscale consumers and early adopters who don't mind shelling out the cash for high-end projection and high-definition TVs, plasma monitors and other next-generation display products. Positioned as a premium, leading-edge brand, Thomson debuted Scenium in Europe more than two years ago and intends to extend it globally.

The move comes as the economy falters and threatens to worsen with the outbreak of war. Layoffs, even among Scenium's affluent target, are taking a toll on consumer spending. But industry analysts maintain that a jittery public will retreat into the comforts of home with such products as big-screen TVs and DVD rentals.

With Scenium, Thomson gains the needed cachet of an upper tier brand. The strategy results in a good, better, best paradigm, with GE as the entry brand sold at warehouse clubs and discount retailers; RCA in the anchor role at mid-range price points; and Scenium as the aspirational brand for consumers ages 25 to 44 with an average annual household income of $75,000 or more.

Thomson announced this summer that it was phasing out its RCA ProScan, a high-end home entertainment brand with limited distribution and little sex appeal. Scenium, however, is not viewed as a replacement for ProScan, because it will have wider, global distribution.

Scenium print and online ads, created by Lowe Live (currently being folded into Interpublic's DraftWorldwide) will break in Nov. 19 editions of newsweeklies. The ads won't include Nipper and Chipper, RCA's brand mascots. "This is a forward-leaning posture, we're trying to have a little different appeal and we'll be a little less reliant on our icons," said Tom Wardrop, VP-worldwide advertising, Thomson Multimedia. The dogs may be included in Scenium ads at some point. "They have tons of heritage. ... We have no intention of walking away from the brand equity or heritage of the dogs. This is purely a positioning play," he said.

One RCA Scenium print ad features the copy, "Design and innovation, together like never before." The ads, still in production, leverage the products as the focal point. The campaign has a large online component-with banners, skyscrapers, interstitials and sponsorships appearing on entertainment sites in the AOL TimeWarner online network family beginning this month.

Thomson's ad push for the RCA brand centers on audio products such as the RCA Lyra, a portable MP3 player; print runs in monthlies such as Miller Publishing Group's Vibe and Spin, and Dennis Publishing's Blender; along with massive event marketing on college campuses and at Barnes & Noble bookstores. Two :30 TV spots for the baseline RCA brand begin airing next month-the same executions as last year's.

Thomson spent $20.1 million in measured media in the U.S. in 2000 and $4.2 million from January to June of this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Mr. Wardrop said Thomson's fourth-quarter spending is flat compared with the same period last year.

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