Sony studios help pitch camcorders

Hollywood is teaching Madison Avenue a few tricks again.

Sony just concluded an experiment in synergy: Its electronics unit solicited creative ideas from the company’s Hollywood studios, including Columbia Pictures , on how to advertise a point-and-shoot camcorder.

The experiment was a success, according to the Wall Street Journal. And executives at Sony’s electronic and motion pictures divisions say this is how advertising will be done from now on, when possible. But they insist that the company’s ad agency, Leo Burnett of Chicago, shouldn’t feel threatened, especially since the agency took part in brainstorming sessions from virtually the beginning of marketing planning for the Handycam Snap!

“We don’t see this as a threat,” says Brian Williams, senior vice president at Burnett who is in charge of the Sony account. “The concept of the ad came from Sony Pictures. Once that concept was developed, we worked on the execution, the production and the placement.”

Nevertheless, Sony’s new strategy will make Madison Avenue more uneasy. The ad industry was shaken up two years ago after Creative Artists Agency snared creative responsibilities for the Coca-Cola account from Interpublic Group’s McCann-Erickson.

Sony executives contend that won’t happen to Burnett, which won Sony’s electronic advertising, including camcorders and Trinitron television sets, two years ago from Slater, Hanft, Martin in New York.

Michael P. Schulhof, president and chief executive of Sony Corp. of America, is credited with bringing the electronics and movie units together. Because Sony Pictures, which includes Columbia Pictures, is in the business of trying to connect “emotionally” with moviegoers, Schulhof thought it would be worthwhile for the Hollywood studio to be brought in on the advertising for the new eight-millimeter camera, said Sid Ganis, exec veep and prexy of marketing and distribution at Columbia Pictures.

With a price of about $ 1,000, the camcorder comes with an unusual feature: a 3-inch liquid crystal display viewing screen, which means the camera doesn’t have to be held to the eye when recording. That means amateur directors no longer have to hold the camera with twohands.

Columbia created the tagline for the campaign: “Single-handedly changing entertainment” and also its concept to show how Snap! buyers can view full-length motion pictures virtually anywhere, as well as record everyday occurrences. Thus, the campaign’s theme is, “You can watch movies, make movies, be in movies,” with the camcorder.

The four-page print campaign is expected to begin next week in Time, Newsweek , People and Sports Illustrated.

The creative cross-fertilization won’t stop with Snap! Already, Sony Electronics is in discussions with Sony Pictures for its advertising thoughts on campaigns for other electronic products next year.

“To the general advertising community, this may all seem like an unusual direction,” said Brooks. “But not to Sony.”

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