Media circus: Philips under the big top

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[Buenos Aires, Argentina] Philips hits the road this month on a 12-city tour of its very own circus, fully equipped with its state-of-the-art technology products, in an effort to dazzle consumers and boost sales in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

Philips created the show, called Philips Electronic Circus, with Fire Advertainment, an advertising and entertainment content company backed by Omnicom Group's DDB Argentina.

The idea is to enable consumers to "live" its latest technology in stereos, TVs and video products, helping to boost brand recognition and sales, especially in the high-end market where rival Sony has an edge in these countries.

try it out

"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 technology. The tents have a capacity to hold 600 people, with seating room only in areas where products can be tried out.

The three- to four-hour show, conducted 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. A magician cuts the image of a woman projected on three screens and a knife thrower targets a woman who appears on several TV monitors. Elsewhere, a human pyramid is created through the use of TV images.

"The idea is to show people that Philips technology is functional, dynamic, innovative and stimulating, not only in [the circus] but in daily life," Mr. Figueroa Reyes said.

That's the main reason Philips chose such a novel method, 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 circus allows people to `live' the Philips experience, as the technology is everywhere."

second major push

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.

Philips invested an estimated $360,000 in an earlier effort with the circus, involving 12 shows held at upper-crust sporting events including rugby and field hockey in major 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.

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 knife-thrower and plasma screens 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 $360,000 investment earlier this year.

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

While it is too early to note results in increased sales for Philips, Ms. Grignani said sports clubs have started to call to request the circus pass their way.

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