Sexy Samsung

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Early indications are Samsung Group will trade in incumbent boutique AG Worldwide for a big global agency as the marketer prepares what could be a $400 million global image campaign. However the review turns out, it's worth noting, and applauding, the work Peter Arnell's AG Worldwide has done for the past six years to help create a top-tier consumer electronics brand.

Samsung and AG have been a good pair. Samsung -- more a loss-leader price point than a brand a decade ago -- has worked hard to upgrade the quality, features and industrial design of its TVs, wireless phones and microwave ovens. We knew Samsung was doing something right a few years ago when Consumer Reports ranked a Samsung VCR ahead of a Sony.

AG, meanwhile, took that improved product and put it on a pedestal -- using fashion-styled b&w photos of beautiful models with beautiful products. Amid a category of uninspired, forgettable consumer electronics and appliance ads, Samsung broke through with edgy, witty ads. Samsung and AG figured out how to think different long before Apple Computer and TBWA/Chiat/Day.

In last week's story on the review, a Samsung insider complained Samsung's share of the U.S. electronics market hasn't budged under AG's watch. Okay. It's a tough market. We agree Samsung's advertising should be driving market share; maybe Middle America didn't get the urban-hip ads. We are happy that Samsung intends to step up spending to boost its brand. AG's work elevated Samsung's image. Samsung now is in a position to nurture a brand consumers will aspire to own -- the Sony of Korea.

Mr. Arnell admits his small, Interpublic Group of Cos. shop is underdog in the global review. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, kudos to Samsung and AG. Whoever thought a microwave oven could look so good?

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