Panasonic vs. LG: Who Delivered the Sharper Image in Media?

Optimedia's Antony Young on Who Was Better Prepped for Digital TV Switch

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Antony Young
Antony Young
June 12, 2009, TV's equivalent to Y2K, will see broadcasters throughout the country switch off their analog TV transmitters to broadcast entirely in digital. In the past year, households have had to get themselves digital-ready -- one bright spark for a consumer-electronics industry hammered by the recession. Unit sales of digital TV sets in 2009 will reach nearly 35 million, up about 8% from 2008. The category is flooded by a multitude of Japanese, Korean, European and Chinese brands. While consumers are all too ready to compare side-by-side prices, technology and design, we like to think that marketing and promotion still helps influence brand choice. Panasonic and LG, two brands battling to pull out in front of the pack and compete with established market leaders Sony and Samsung, employed different media strategies. Let's see how they did.


5 stars Outstanding/innovative
4 stars Highly effective
3 stars Good
2 stars Disappointing
1 star A disaster

Communication strategies

The two consumer-electronics marketers had similar advertising budgets but didn't deploy them the same way.

LG Epicurious
Panasonic promoted its HDTV line Viera through a branded "Living in High Definition" marketing campaign that used TV, newspapers and online social media. It also capitalized on its global status as official consumer-electronics sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympics and, domestically, of Major League Soccer. Its media mix in the past 12 months heavily skewed toward national newspapers (44%, according to TNS Media Intelligence), cable TV (17%) and online display (14%).

LG's advertising strategy is developed globally and then localized for domestic markets. For many years "Life's good" has dominated LG's messaging for all its various product offerings. In January 2009, LG partnered with Conde Nast Media Group and introduced a slightly different catchphrase -- "Life looks good" -- into the creative global messaging of LG's TV line. Its media mix in the U.S. skewed more heavily to magazines (49%) and national TV (35%).

CES strategy

Panasonic 4 stars
LG 3 and a half stars

CES in the first week of January is the electronics industry's equivalent of Detroit's Auto Show. It's a major marketing event designed to showcase product innovations and create buzz, with the likes of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Sony Corp.'s Howard Stringer, Intel's Craig Barrett and even Ford Motor President-CEO Alan Mulally descending on the annual Las Vegas event.

Antony Young is CEO of Optimedia U.S., a Publicis Groupe company headquartered in New York. He is author of "Strategies in a Downturn."
LG launched its CES TV product presentations under the banner of "Advanced Technologies Beautifully Hidden," a call for the company to be more consumer-focused. "Our job is to offer TVs that are designed around the people who will be watching them," said KS Lee, LG's VP-home entertainment brand marketing team. One bright spot was its announcement of NetCast Entertainment Access, a feature that offers instant streaming of movies, TV shows and video, and a widget-based user experience via direct ethernet/TV connectivity. Through alliances with Yahoo, Netflix and YouTube, consumers can instantly access up-to-the-minute news, stock information, weather updates and video content by using the TV's remote control.

Panasonic impressed with its 3-D full HDTV booth, which included a mini home theater that featured a 103-inch plasma 3-D Blu-ray panel. Screening scenes from feature films "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Bolt," it garnered a lot of buzz from attendees and many of the credible tech sites reviewing the event. It capped off the week with Panasonic's G10 series being named top TV at CES by CNet Editor David Katzmaier.

Print media

Panasonic 3 stars
LG 4 and a half stars

LG developed a significant partnership with Conde Nast Media Group. The first installment featured film director Edward Zwick ("Glory," "The Last Samurai") in a four-page insert in Conde Nast's Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, Vogue and GQ. The ad shows Zwick on a desert movie set looking at an LG flat-panel TV in front of him and includes quotes reflecting his thoughts on cinematography and landscapes. The online portion contained dedicated LG websites on Conde Nast properties, including,,, that featured video interviews with Zwick as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of his Santa Monica, Calif., office. The focus is on Zwick and his experience, not the LG equipment, designed to create a more emotional link to the LG brand. LG's partnership was noteworthy in that it made Conde Nast both the creator and sole distributor of the ad -- a great example of a publisher going beyond just selling traditional media space.

Panasonic Living in HD
Panasonic's magazine schedule supported its flagship Viera across niche title Sound and Vision, promoting a study of its superior quality; mass titles such as People, promoting "It's time for some Viera time"; and special-interest magazines such as ESPN The Magazine, for a tactical ad around the NCAA, and The Robb Report, promoting its top-of-the-line plasma screen. While those were very targeted messages in specific titles, they seemed to lack an overall campaign feel to tie the executions together. Panasonic also bought some tactical newspaper around the Super Bowl and across national newspapers such as USA Today.


Panasonic x stars
LG 1 star

To capitalize on its status as the official consumer-electronics sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Panasonic organized a national tour to "Get your family ready for the first HD Olympics." In the 100 days leading up to the games, trucks visited retailers across the country promoting the Olympics, offering autograph signings by past Olympic athletes and a sweepstakes to win Viera HDTVs, with a grand-prize trip for four to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Aside from the Olympics, Panasonic's other long-term sports sponsorship is with Major League Soccer. The deal was extended in February and guarantees Panasonic the rights to MLS league and team marks, in-stadium signage, player appearances, and onsite promotional rights at MLS games. Last summer, Panasonic teamed with Best Buy to promote Viera TVs through outdoor, local TV and point-of-sale promotions in Hispanic-skewing and Best Buy-heavy markets including Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Executions were entirely in Spanish and featured MLS stars David Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel and Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

LG avoided sponsorship, instead focusing its marketing dollars behind product advertising. It pulled its PGA Skins Tournament sponsorship this year, which led to the cancellation of the event.

Online advertising

Panasonic 4 stars
LG 3 and a half stars

Panasonic built a website,, with the goal of educating consumers about Panasonic's high-definition products -- TVs, camcorders, Blu-ray players, cameras, laptops and home theater systems. The site promotes a social aspect by encouraging Panasonic customers to share their videos and comments on the site. also features a learning center that includes a question-and-answer section starring Greg Harper, the "Answerman"; how-tos; tips; an FAQ; and forums.

Panasonic ran a steady stream of display ads promoting its Viera on shopping and influencer sites such as CNet, Epinions, PC World,, and Shopzilla.

LG display ads have run exclusively on Conde Nast web properties since January 2009 (see print media above). The site invites visitors to learn more about LG's latest innovations at LG's home page.

Social media

Panasonic 4 stars
LG 2 stars

To support its presence at CES, Panasonic funded six influential bloggers to attend the show. They met with Panasonic executives such as Chief Marketing Officer Bob Greenberg, hung out at the Panasonic booth and press sessions, and previewed products. While Panasonic had no say as to what was written, it did get a steady stream (daily, if not hourly) of blog entries, Twitter and video blogs posted, most all of it positive to neutral. It also ran brand-sponsored pages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Panasonic Twitter
LG appears to focus its social-media pages around its mobile phones on both Facebook and Twitter. It should also be noted that most of these efforts are based out of other countries -- LG Germany, U.K. and France all maintain Twitter pages.


Panasonic 3 stars
LG 2 stars

Panasonic and its resellers bought branded and unbranded phrases that consistently gave them more traffic. LG tended to focus on buying its brand name as a search phrase.


Panasonic 3 stars
LG 3 stars

Panasonic ran TV spots primarily on cable last year, and featured a busy family "booked" with activities such as a Spanish tutor and ballet, in need of some "Viera time" together in front of the TV. That was followed by "Enhance Your Passions," a new spot launched in April, which highlighted all the features of the Viera, such as its image viewer, iPod entertainment kit and Viera Cast.

LG ran a combination of network, cable and national syndication, running its "The speed can't be matched" spot that shows seemingly impossibly realistic images on the TV, while a voice-over explains the speed at which the motion detail works on the LG TV, finally summing up the commercial with the question: "Is it a TV or is it something better? LG. Life's good."

In summary

Panasonic 3 and a half stars
LG 4 stars

These are two very different media communication strategies behind two seemingly similar products. Both Panasonic and LG both deserve high marks for their use of media to differentiate.

Panasonic used a backbone of newspapers and TV behind its campaign. However, it went outside traditional media to influence shoppers (truck road shows) and bloggers and used activities to influence influencers at CES. It was also active in paid search.

LG used traditional media imaginatively. Its print and online partnership with Conde Nast was one bright spot of an advertiser and publishing company truly innovating by customizing and leveraging content in a very organic way across their print and online properties. Other publishers should take note.

While this one is very close, and I applaud some strong components in Panasonic's plan, LG's media strategy came across as more cohesive and more differentiating. Because both companies report only global revenue figures across the range of products, it is difficult to determine the campaigns' impact on sales. However, using Google search volume for TV brands as one metric, LG has overtaken Panasonic so far this year after trailing in 2008.

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