Sony plans $150 mil blitz for PlayStation 2 launch

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[los angeles] Sony Computer Entertainment of America will try to finesse two highly targeted, vertical marketing campaigns as it marches toward the Oct. 26 launch of its PlayStation 2 in North America.

Sony will spend at least $150 million to market its long-awaited, next-generation digital entertainment platform, although spending is expected to climb beyond that level, said Andrew House, VP-marketing.

At last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the $7 billion interactive entertainment industry's annual confab, Sony vowed to back the PlayStation 2 with its biggest marketing blitz ever. Yet it must also endeavor to grow the existing PlayStation franchise at the same time. "It's going to be a year of managing two brands in a very fluid situation," Mr. House said.

Since the PlayStation videogame console debuted in North America in 1995, a total of 72 million units have shipped worldwide, 27 million of those within North America. According to Sony, the PlayStation is now in one of every four homes in the U.S. Sony's goal is to change that to one in every three homes by yearend.


Sony is touting PlayStation 2 as a computer entertainment system that will serve as a gateway to broadband services, a kind of hub that will bring digital content -- software, music, movies and commerce -- right into consumers' homes. The advanced unit will sell for $299, with built-in DVD video capability, an optional 3.5-inch drive and a network pack, as well as facility to allow users to play almost 800 existing PlayStation software titles.

Sony's goal is to have 1 million units available at launch and to sell 3 million by the end of its fiscal year on March 30, 2001; however, Kazuo Hirai, president-chief operating officer, said the numbers "aren't set in stone."

Sony's target for the PlayStation 2? A group it calls "imaginators" -- or gamers, techies, and music and movie buffs. They are predominantly male, ages 18 to 34 and they exercise enormous influence over household technology purchases. Sony hopes to leverage them as product evangelists. A multimedia advertising and marketing campaign is gearing up via TBWA/Chiat Day, San Francisco and Playa del Rey, Calif. Media planning and buying are handled by the Playa del Rey office.

Mr. House said the campaign will revolve around a "stretching the imagination" concept.

"We want to espouse an ideology -- it's creative, passionate, daring," he said.

The campaign for PlayStation 2 will be highly targeted, he added. Consumer trial through extensive event marketing with retailers, in-store kiosks, as well as direct mail is planned for July and August.


Sony is unlikely to unleash an extensive teaser campaign, however, and the bulk of print and TV advertising will begin about mid-October. The tone of the campaign will focus heavily on the potential of the PlayStation 2 to open new opportunities for entertainment, in order to broaden its appeal.

Mr. House said he plans to shift the existing PlayStation brand positioning to reach potential female purchasers and "unconverted" adults.

"We want to tap the youth market with PlayStation, kids less than 12 years old." Sony will use a combination of TV, print, online, cinema and possibly outdoor advertising to target these audiences.

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