Marketers push convergence

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Interactive TV platforms, sleek Web-enabled tablet PCs, wireless phones equipped for text messages and a vast array of handheld devices dominated last week's 2001 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Leaving dire warnings about an economic slowdown aside, consumer electronics marketers and technology giants waxed poetic about digital convergence products and services and appear poised to spend a bundle to market them.

* Microsoft Corp. reined in its estimated $50 million ad campaign by FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, for UltimateTV-a digital video recorder that lets TV viewers watch one program while recording another. Microsoft postponed the national launch of UltimateTV, originally slated for release last December, by two months due to manufacturing issues and problems with the set-top box. TV spots by FCB, which start airing in March, will be a series of funny vignettes followed by a punch line. There is no tagline. Print advertising is on hold, but teaser ads could break next month.

* Microsoft showed off its highly anticipated Xbox videogame console, a slickly designed black box with a verdant green logo. While there's no tagline yet, the brand positioning for Xbox has begun to solidify. Look for McCann-Erickson, New York, with some assistance from Happy Dog, London, to focus on mystery and magic, power, liberation, inspiration and visions and dreams coming to life.

* Intel Corp. advanced an extended PC strategy built around a host of new consumer devices that link with PCs in an effort to boost sagging sales. Those include PC cameras, wireless peripherals and audio devices such as Intel's Pocket Concert, a portable digital music player. Pocket Concert hits retail next month and will receive retail promotional support and possibly, some advertising via Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York. Intel's Pentium 4 processor campaign, also from Messner, is due in February.

* Matsushita Electric Corp. of America finally appears ready to deploy a corporate brand campaign, at least in the U.S. After more than a year's worth of discussions and research on its Panasonic brand, the company plans an image effort from Grey Worldwide, New York, for the fourth quarter. Media spending is expected to increase by some 30%; last year media spending for Panasonic was about $40 million.

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