Walk this way

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Plato, Sony Electronics' soulful space alien, touts the marketer's ubiquitous Walkman brand while befriending its Gen Y target in a series of TV spots breaking Sept. 6 during the MTV Video Music Awards.

In year two, Sony's "Walkman Has Landed" campaign created by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, continues to feature the furry character in everyday scenarios that 12- to-24-year-olds can relate to. The spots, airing only on Viacom's MTV, are part of an estimated $10 million effort to promote the Walkman family of products to an audience born after the 1979 launch of the first Walkman. The total includes print and online advertising, all of which run through March 2002.

This year, however, Sony will show Plato interacting more closely with Gen Yers in high school and college environments. "This is the year that Plato enters the daily lifestyle of Gen Y," said Ken Dice, VP-corporate marketing, Sony Electronics. Sony is using the targeted approach to lure the highly coveted demographic to the rest of the Sony product portfolio, aiming to hook them on Sony for life.

In the 60-second "Doctor," Plato gets a school physical by an attractive female doctor. He's listening to music on a Network Walkman while the doctor examines him. When she checks his heartbeat, she gasps as it syncs with the beat of the music. In the :30 "Weigh In," Plato's in the locker room with the wrestling team preparing to get weighed. He's tethered to the MiniDisc Walkman that plays five hours worth of tracks; The Fat Boys' rap song "Fat Boy" plays during the spot. When the coach tells him he's got five hours to lose weight, Plato heads to the sauna then hops onto the scale again and drops his underwear to meet the weight requirements. "Wrestler" shows Plato receiving a good-luck CD for his Walkman before taking to the mat. Over Creation's track "Making Time," Plato handily knocks out a wrestling opponent.

"In year one, we were very careful with Plato because we did not want to create a shill, we wanted to create an icon that was emblematic of Gen Y, but wanted to leave enough room for interpretation," said John Partilla, managing partner, Y&R Advertising. The new campaign begins to show Plato's interests and personality.

Don't look for Plato to become the next Taco Bell Chihuahua, with licensed product lines bearing his image. "He's just a magnet for Gen Y and the eclectic nature of Gen Y," Mr. Dice said.

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