Marketing Effort Includes Ringmaster, Knife-thrower, Midgets

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BUENOS AIRES ( -- In a curious marketing effort combining old-time big-top hokum with high-tech consumer products, Philips Electronics is about to launch the
Among other things, the Philips circus includes three tents (top), a digital female target for the knife thrower (middle) and a live magician who interacts with a digital assistant.
Philips Electronic Circus on a 12-city tour of South America.

It is literally a three-ring circus, with a ringmaster, knife-thrower, magician, acrobats, midgets and wild animals. Some are living, breathing people in costume and others are digital video images playing on the Philips equipment that is the real star of the show.

Traveling show
The glitzy traveling product promotional event was created by Philips, part of Amsterdam-based Royal Philips Electronics, and FiRe Advertainment, an advertising and entertainment content company backed by Omnicom Group's DDB Argentina.

"Instead of taking home a brochure that explains the dimension of a television set, consumers experience the products and can try them out" at the circus, said Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes, president and creative director of FiRe.

Targeted at more affluent youth and executives, the circus unfolds in three interconnected tents equipped with Philips' latest home entertainment products. The tents have a capacity to hold 600 people, with seating room only in areas where products can be tried out.

Woman cut in half
The three- to four-hour show, done with a party atmosphere, consists of a ringmaster taming wild animals that appear on a plasma screen and a hunter chasing animals escaping from four simultaneously projected screens. In one act projected on three screens, a magician cuts the image of a woman in half. Meanwhile, a knife-thrower targets a woman who appears on several TV monitors. Elsewhere, a human pyramid is created through the use of TV images.

Odd? Yes. Unforgettable? Definitely. That's the main reason Philips chose such a novel promotional tactic, said Maria Alejandra Grignani, corporate marketing and communications manager of Philips Argentina.

"In a traditional ad campaign you can't touch or experiment with the technology," she said.

The idea is to allow consumers to physically experience the latest in Philips stereos, TVs and video products, especially in the high-end market, where rival Sony has an edge.

Earlier medical show
This is the company's second major push to take its products to consumers. Earlier this year, Philips took its medical technology to shopping centers in Buenos Aires. There, pregnant women could have three-dimensional ultrasounds, capture the images and send them by e-mail to family and friends. Philips has expanded the experience to Chile and plans to take it to Brazil and Mexico in 2004.

The electronics giant spent an estimated $360,000 behind its original effort with the circus, 12 shows held at upper-crust sporting events such as rugby and field hockey in major South American cities between August and November. The circus was promoted with FiRe-created ads in magazines and on cable TV. Attendees were invited to the event by the sports clubs, and the circus was co-sponsored by Cepas Argentinas and Quilmes, leading makers of alcoholic beverages and beer, respectively.

Three-country tour
And as with any circus, a summer tour is in the works. In December, the first month of South America's summer, Philips will take the show on a three-nation tour. The first stops are Montevideo and Punta del Este in Uruguay, followed by the hip coastal resorts of Argentina for the height of summer. The circus will wrap up in February with four stops in Chile. Spending is estimated to be similar to the earlier $360,000 investment.

There is talk of later taking the circus to other parts of Latin America, and possibly further afield, Ms. Grignani said.

While it is too early to assess the impact on Philips product sales, Ms. Grignani said sports clubs have started to call to request the circus pass their way again.

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