By Published on .

Christopher Deering, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, has his work cut out for him.

The London-based Mr. Deering, 50, is overseeing the Sept. 29 European launch of Sony's PlayStation videogame machine. The PlayStation went on sale in the U.S. Sept. 9.

It's a challenging assignment. PlayStation is Sony's first videogame machine, and it carries a hefty price tag: $480 in Europe and $300 in the U.S. And there are signs consumers are bored with videogames. In the U.K., for example, where Mr. Deering hopes to sell 175,000 PlayStations in the first six months, sales of videogame software are down 35% this year, according to the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association, a U.K. trade group.

What's more, unlike Sega Enterprises and Nintendo Co., which have their own new-generation home console units coming out, Sony doesn't have a loyal customer base to rely on.

To cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, Mr. Deering is spending a lot of money. In Europe, $40 million is budgeted for promotional activity, with $30 million above the line. A similar amount is being spent in the U.S., where TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., handles the account.

In Europe, Simons, Palmer, Denton, Clemmow & Johnson, London, is doing the advertising. U.K. print ads have appeared in magazines such as GQ, Select, Q and Esquire. A European TV, video and cinema campaign will break in October. Ads use humor to stress the power of the PlayStation console and give examples of the games' look.

"In any European marketing effort for a brand, especially a new brand, there are a matrix of objectives that have to be addressed," Mr. Deering said. "You start below the line with local cooperative advertising and special trade customized promotions, localized PR, and in the case of a new product like this, trial-generating activity, whether it is in store or outside in the form of road shows.

"Then you move up the spectrum to above the line kind of activity and straight TV, and you try to have as much commonality as you can for the benefit of overlapping media and for simplicity and for consistency of message."

Sony has spent heavily in Europe to provide trial PlayStation units at most retailers, and is relying on the TV campaign to sell the experience.

Mr. Deering's background appears to have prepared him for such a challenge. Since 1989, he has been chief operating officer of the international division of Sony's Columbia Pictures/TriStar Home Video unit, and he sees similarities between the two jobs. "A big arcade [videogame] hit forms the credentials for the home version, as cinema does for home video," he said.

In the 1970s, Mr. Deering worked for Gillette Co., where he introduced the Trac II twin blade shaver in the U.S. After a stint as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. in the mid-1970s, he returned to Gillette. Then in the 1980s, he moved on to Atari International, where he was VP-marketing, and then joined Spinnaker Software Corp. As VP of the international division, he set up operations in 12 countries.

Mr. Deering hopes to sell a million PlayStation consoles in Europe in the first year. He aims to duplicate the product's success in Japan, where it went on sale Dec. 3, 1994. More than 1 million units have been sold there, with five pieces of PlayStation software sold for every piece of hardware.

Most Popular
In this article: