Marketing to 'mavericks': Sony ad campaign targets boomers-turned-Zoomers

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They are a maverick generation that redefined what it means to be a teen-ager, a swinging single and a parent-so why should their next life stage be any less cataclysmic? At least that's what Sony Electronics figures, as the company invites baby boomers to fulfill their life's passions and deferred dreams in a bold ad and marketing campaign breaking Oct. 28.

Targeting "Zoomers," a term coined last year by U.S. News & World Report, is new for Sony. But with up to 34% of the brand's sales coming from consumers ages 50 and older, it's a segment of the population that it can't afford to ignore. The baby-boom generation is defined as adults born from 1946-1964 who account for 78 million people in the U.S., according to American Demographics. In specific terms, an American turns 50 every seven seconds, according to the U.S. Census.

Sony's estimated $25 million effort by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, and sibling Brand Buzz includes two TV spots, online buys vis-a-vis editorial vignettes on AOL Time Warner's Time Inc. sites and (AA, July 22). Four more TV spots and promotional tie-ins are planned.


Sony and Y&R set out to create an anthem for a generation whose kids are out of the house, and who finally have time to themselves and some discretionary income. This generation will "blow away the traditional concepts of being an empty-nester, early retirement and retirement," said Ken Dice, senior VP-consumer segment marketing, Sony.

The Zoomer effort is in keeping with the consumer-segmentation approach to the market Sony embarked on earlier this year. So far, it has unveiled campaigns targeting families, Gen Y, alpha/early adopters, young professionals and small office/home office and mobile professionals.

Y&R Creative Directors Mark D'Arcy and Jaime Ambler fought to come up with a big idea. "The real breakthrough creatively is we're not creating a revolution, it's already happening. ... We wanted to tell stories so that people [say] `that's me!' and put their fists in the air," Mr. D'Arcy said.

Mr. Ambler interviewed musician David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as one example of a voice from the Zoomer generation. "He wasn't interested in looking back," Mr. Ambler said, but in "forward momentum."

A cover of CSN&Y's "Carry On" is the score to the 60-second "Trip," breaking Oct. 28. Filmed at the Star City Cosmonaut Training Facility outside Moscow and directed by Joe Pytka, the spot tells the story of a 50-ish man leaving his business and making his dream of going into space a reality. He travels to Russia to train, documenting the trip on a Sony Handycam. It closes with the copy: "When your kids ask where the money went, show them the tape."

A second spot, "Shark," shows a grandmother in her late 50s who films her adventure swimming face-to-face with a shark and then shows it to her grandchild, who innocently asks, "Where were you, Grandpa?" The spots will run in prime-time network and cable programming.


"From a marketing perspective, once people hit retirement or early retirement, these groups are quickly dismissed," Mr. Dice said, a trend exacerbated by network TV programming that targets 18 to 34-year-olds, or 18 to 49. He cited advertising for Chrysler's PT Cruiser, Ford Motor Co.'s Thunderbird and Cadillac's use of a Led Zeppelin track as exceptions, along with drug, insurance and financial-services ads. "When we started to think about talking to and engaging [Zoomers] we realized that no one created an anthem for this generation."

Mike Vitelli, exec VP, Sony, who helped develop the marketing platform for the Zoomer campaign, is himself entering Zoomer-hood: He's 47. "This is a time when anything is possible. There's time for yourself again and it's a time to live life large again," Mr. Vitelli said, adding that he and his wife are excited at the prospect of their youngest son heading to college next year.

contributing: lisa sanders

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