"You can't count Nokia out; it would be a mistake to do that."
So said Craig Coffey, VP-marketing for the Finnish phone marketer, which has big plans to reclaim its competitiveness in North America, beginning with a big-blast ad push set to launch this week for a product that hits right at the American middle.
The campaign promotes the Astound handset, a product aimed at feature-phone users who want to upgrade to smartphones, but not the top-of-the-line Android and Apple devices. It's Nokia's first major U.S. campaign in recent memory -- and the biggest under the company's first North American CEO and its newly installed chief marketer, Jerri DeVard.
"This is one effort we're making, but it's not a one-off effort," Mr. Coffey said. "It's indicative of how important this market is and how important this consumer is."
The ads target value-conscious 18- to 34-year-olds, said Mr. Coffey. Astound retails for $80, while market leaders iPhone and Verizon Droid start at $199 and $150, respectively. "This campaign speaks to what this brand has always been about: accessibility," he said.
"The "Made to Perform" campaign will include a TV spot where two phones act out a Wild West cowboy-villain duel through movie, videos and social-media characters displayed on the Astound's large screens. Running on cable stations such as E!, MTV and VH1 and during late-night shows such as "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the TV campaign is expected to reach 90% of the 18-to-34 audience nine or more times each, Mr. Coffey said.
In social media, that cowboy will find his voice on Twitter under the handle @thecowboy1887 and digital buys will be focused on properties such as Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo and Hulu. Wieden & Kennedy handled TV work; Wunderman was the digital agency. Boutique 1,000 Heads handled social media, and Carat did media planning and buying.
It's unclear whether the campaign will do much to shift Nokia's image as a purveyor of cheap, B-list handsets.
CEO Stephen Elop has been vocal about North America's critical role in saving the ailing manufacturer. In February, Nokia had only 6% U.S. market share -- not enough to crack the top five, according to ComScore. But the first major campaign under his leadership hints that the company is still not ready to compete with high-end smartphones, and some think that focus on low-end devices will do little to change Nokia's position in the U.S.
Going after the low-end market is what got the Finland-based company into trouble in the first place, said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. Nokia really began to bleed market share in 2006, according to IDC, maintaining relationships with only two out of the four major carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, and sticking to entry-level devices while the market was moving to high-end, quick-messaging feature phones.
Nokia also hasn't proved competitive when it comes to ad spending in the U.S. market. While Mr. Coffey declined to share budget specifics, he called the campaign a significant investment and bigger than recent launches. In 2010, Apple spent six times more on the iPhone alone than the $5.3 million Nokia spent in U.S. measured media, according to Kantar Media. While Nokia spent north of $275 million on measured media globally in 2009, according to Ad Age DataCenter, less than 5% went to the U.S., with Europe and Asia getting most of it.
In January Nokia appointed a new chief marketer in Ms. DeVard, a longtime American marketer who's clocked time at Verizon and Pillsbury."There's a pattern of disappointments in the United States," Mr. Elop said during the companies year-end earnings call in January. "A pattern that where efforts have been made, competitiveness challenges exist, and we very much need to address those."
In February, Nokia partnered with Microsoft to phase out its home-grown mobile software for smartphones, Symbian, in favor of Windows Phone.
The Astound is a Symbian device and it's yet unclear how long it will take Nokia to develop a new Windows Phone, creating what Mr. Elop hopes can be the "third ecosystem" to compete with Apple and Android. The Astound will contribute to the 150 million Symbian devices Mr. Elop expects to sell before the software is phased out.