Sony's New Campaign Has an Old Look

Brand Re-runs Vintage Ads to Promote Recycling of Its Products

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NEW YORK ( -- No, that Sony commercial trying to sell you on the merits of a clunky old cassette recorder isn't a mistake. It's recycled.
Sony's latest ad push, meant to ramp up recycling efforts, pokes fun at its own outdated electronics.
Sony's latest ad push, meant to ramp up recycling efforts, pokes fun at its own outdated electronics.

Sony Electronics is ramping up its recycling effort with dozens of events at which consumers can drop off old Sony electronics for free, with each one supported by a local marketing push. And to drive home the point, it is re-running vintage commercials that feature woefully outdated equipment.

Stuart Redsun, senior VP-corporate marketing, showed mock-up TV ads at a press meeting today to emphasize that Sony is "recycling our old commercials to remind you to recycle your old electronics." The concept work included a father videotaping his wife and child outside at play with an enormous camera in one hand and suitcase-sized carrying case slung over his other shoulder; another spot features a boy playing the piano with a bulky cassette-tape deck looming in the foreground.

Mr. Redsun said that although specific creative executions are still in the works, a marketing campaign along similar lines will run in each of the targeted markets before the already scheduled 40 recycling events. The first one is set for this weekend at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, home of Sony Electronics' corporate headquarters. Omnicom Group's BBDO is handling the campaign.

Going green
Sony is working with Waste Management's WM Recycle America on its goal to set up e-waste recycling points within 20 miles of the majority of U.S. consumers. So far they have around 100 drop-off points, and should have at least one in each state by the end of the year, a Sony spokesman said.

Sony first launched its green initiative last August, and the company said it has resulted in 1,000 tons of recycled electronic waste. Beyond the green push, Sony plans to continue with an umbrella effort, which also began last summer, that unites its products by touting their high-definition DNA (thus the campaign's name, "HDNA"). The push was the first to employ Sony's internally named "silver bullet" marketing plan.

Mr. Redsun described it as a six- to eight-week aggressive marketing and advertising blitz that combines a number of product categories and "go[es] big with one idea." Results so far have been impressive. In follow-up research, Sony found that more than 55% of the U.S. population had seen an HDNA ad, more than double the rate of any previous Sony Electronics campaign, he said. Sony also found that 25% of people who saw the ads were more likely to know about high-definition cameras and camcorders, and 25% were more likely to know about Blu-ray DVD.

Unclear sales effect
What was less clear was how the push affected sales. Sony executives did say generally that its holiday sales were healthy, with cameras up 115% in November and 22% in December compared to the same period a year ago. Sony Style sales (retail and internet combined) were up 34%, it said, this holiday over last. Sony also noted it has a leading share in camcorders (48%) in the U.S. as well as flat-panel TVs (12.8%).

When it comes to Blu-ray, Sony Electronics took the high road in discussing its recent format win over Toshiba's HD DVD competing standard. "There is no gloating on our part," said President-Chief Operating Officer Stan Glasgow, adding that the battle to convince consumers of the value of high-definition DVD is only now beginning. When questioned if the still-expensive players will see rapidly falling prices, Mr. Glasgow said the Sony Blu-ray players will go to $299 this year, and "maybe" get to $200 or lower in 2009. He said he expects about 5 million stand-alone Blu-ray players to be sold in the U.S. this year by Sony and its partner manufacturers.

As for how Blu-ray fits into Sony's future marketing, Mr. Redsun said overall spending would remain the same, but that Blu-ray will take on much more of a "heroic product" role in campaigns going forward.
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