Texas Instruments Sets Huge TV Push

$100 Million Campaign for Enormous DLP Screens Targets NFL, Nascar Fans

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They say everything is bigger in Texas, and everything about Texas Instruments' $100 million marketing campaign is outsize.
To promote its large DLP TVs, Texas Instruments is using less tech-speak and more sponsorships.
To promote its large DLP TVs, Texas Instruments is using less tech-speak and more sponsorships.

The marketer is targeting sports fans (football and Nascar enthusiasts particularly) to showcase its digital-light processing big-screen TVs. Scratch that -- humongous-screen TVs. For while large-size TVs for competing LCD and plasma technologies are in the 40-inch to 50-inch range, Texas Instruments' DLP TVs start at that size, with many more choices in the 60-inch and 70-inch ranges.

"When plasma and LCD TVs start to get to that screen size, they become extremely expensive," said analyst Phillip Swann of TVPredictions.com. (DLP sets are priced $500 to $1,000 or even more depending on features and brand, lower than similarly sized plasma or LCD sets.) "That's where DLP has a niche, by reaching out to that big-screen fan. There will always be the American male who says the screen can never be big enough."

Texas Instruments' media plan includes major sponsorships of both ABC and ESPN's National Football League and college-football programming, as well as the stations' Nextel Cup Nascar programming. The $100 million effort is meant to showcase DLP's clear picture, with no blur or burn in even on the biggest of screens.

"Bigger is better, and we make bigger better with our mirror technology," said Doug Darrow, brand and marketing manager for DLP products at TI, referring to the millions of mirrors embedded in the chips. To TI's targeted audience, "design isn't as important. It's really about a big-screen-TV experience. They're heavy consumers of sports ... they do a lot of group TV watching." DLP TVs are technically not flat screens, although they have slimmed down to around 16 inches.
TV sales
1. 2 million total microdisplay/rear projection
2. 665,000 total microdisplay/rear projection
Source: iSuppli

Another potential target for the "bigger" message is second-time digital-TV buyers, as Mr. Darrow said, the typical consumer buys bigger each time.

The company is purposely staying away from too much tech-speak in its marketing, handled by JWT's Communications, Entertainment & Technology Practice, Atlanta. Its research showed that explaining technology in too much detail doesn't only cause people to get lost in the mire of hard-to-follow terminology, but also annoys and offends them: Consumers seem to think TV makers are insulting their intelligence, Mr. Darrow said.

Dropping prices
Still, TI faces a challenging marketplace where LCD TVs in particular are garnering lots of consumer attention, especially as prices continue to drop precipitously.

"The momentum is going to flat screens, particularly LCD," Mr. Swann said. "To stay competitive, they're going to have to emphasize they're not your father's rear-projection TV ... they're much thinner now. And I think they have to become more stylish. As stylish as a flat screen in the living room; for everyone in the household."

And Texas Instruments isn't only fighting a tight marketplace, but also tightening consumer pocketbooks. A study this month found near-term purchase intent for consumer electronics is weak right now. Only 7% of consumers said they planned to make $500-plus electronics purchases in the next three months, with 51% saying they plan to wait more than a year to make their next large electronics purchase, according to the RBC Capital Markets annual survey.
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