Super Bowl

Best Buy Replaces Justin, Ozzy With Tech Rock Stars in Super Bowl Spot

Developers of Camera Phone, Instagram to be Featured

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Until Steve Jobs died, Best Buy was plotting a familiar course for its Super Bowl ad: hiring a celebrity spokesman.

Drew Panayiotou
Drew Panayiotou

Then all the tributes poured in after the Apple founder's Oct. 5 death, and Best Buy's U.S. marketing chief, Drew Panayiotou, realized that Silicon Valley inventors are today's stars. So, instead of heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne and teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, who starred in last year's ad, Mr. Panayiotou opted to hire innovators who could personify Best Buy's selling premise: that no one knows more about gadgets and how they work together than the chain's blue-shirt sales force.

It's a point the world's largest electronics retailer badly needs to prove if it is to compete with the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com, according to Joe Feldman, an analyst at Telsey Advisory Group in New York.

"That service side of the business is where they're trying to position themselves," Mr. Feldman said. "The fight they are fighting is against the mass merchants and the online merchants."

The commercial, airing in the first quarter, is from CP&B and will spotlight inventors such as Philippe Kahn, who developed one of the first camera phones. Kevin Systrom, who developed Instagram, a free photo-sharing application, will also appear.It's the second time in Best Buy's 45-year historythat it's advertised during the big game.

"They may not be at the same level as Steve Jobs, but they created some amazing stuff," Mr. Panayiotou said of the people featured in its ad.

Trading in big names like Bieber and Osbourne for unknowns is a risk. "Big brands like to hire celebrities," Mr. Panayiotou said. "We looked at everyone from George Clooney to Stephen Colbert. We believe the inventors are more than enough. I give those 125 million viewers a lot of credit. I think they'll appreciate the story."

Likewise, eschewing humor -- a sure-fire way to compete on USA Today's Ad Meter -- is also a risky endeavor.

Best Buy's commercial isn't "intended to be funny," said Mike Vitelli, president of Best Buy's U.S. operations. "It's a statement that these people are inventing technology and what we're inventing is a way to bring that technology to you and make it easy for you."

-- Bloomberg News --

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