Sony is trying to do the near impossible with the help of its new digital agency Firstborn. It aims to tie together its far-ranging electronic products and its myriad movie, music and gaming properties into a coherent cross-platform brand campaign aimed at young people. Social online contests are proving to be a key ingredient. They serve as an interactive way to marry Sony's entertainment offerings with its latest gadgets, all under the "make.believe" corporate tagline.
Firstborn nabbed the Sony business in Oct. 2011; eight months after Tokyo-based Dentsu bought the agency. The challenge for the small shop is to make one of the most comprehensive entertainment and technology companies in the world into a cool, imaginative and approachable brand. "The message behind make.believe is that 'anything you can imagine, you can make real' and our work is meant to embrace that," said Dan LaCivita, Firstborn president.
Phase one of the campaign launched in February with a video of a street scene where animated characters from Sony movies and games mix with real-life rock stars and everyday people using Sony electronics. Two groups charge toward each other as music by Sony artist Dan Black blares, and the video ends just before they collide. The video is hosted on YouTube and on a new Sony website, experience.sony.com.
Phase two of the campaign consists of product-oriented programs presented on the new site. One shows movie scenes and insider video content from the upcoming Sony/Aardman animated movie Pirates! framed by Sony's new Tablet S. The branded videos include shots of filmmakers using Sony devices and ends with e-commerce links for Sony tablets. The Pirates! program also asks users and Sony Facebook fans (more than 2.9 million) to build a "pirate crew" on Facebook and enter to win a trip to Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles.
Another program promotes the videogame game Uncharted 3, which was developed by Naughty Dog for the Sony PlayStation 3. Firstborn built an online training camp where users compete to earn a spot in a multiplayer Uncharted 3 tournament on March 28. Winner of the tournament will be fitted with a motion capture suit at Naughty Dog Studios and be integrated into the game as a new character.
A third product-oriented program will be unveiled on the site at the end of March, said LaCivita. It will combine content about a new Sony movie with a Sony electronics product and will offer users ways to interact with both. "We are reaching a young audience with experiences that exemplify the brand idea," he said. The contests, videos and insider access are meant "to be interesting and resonate with this audience. Then they are surprised to learn that all these offerings come from Sony," LaCivita says.
And big definitely has its benefits. The website and digital programs, or "experiences," are being promoted throughout the Sony media empire. The initial video is shown on the Sony Times Square billboard, in movie theaters before films from Sony Pictures and has been posted on the PlayStation blog. Ads for the site and contests have been placed in Sony stores and on the PlayStation home screen. "When people realize that everything about the campaign is Sony, it makes the brand seem cool," says LaCivita.
Digital consumers, however, may prefer specific, content-heavy promos to the all-inclusive marketing pitch. The initial video showing a barrage of Sony offerings had less than 16,000 views on YouTube by mid-March. In contrast, each one of the six branded videos from the Pirate's! program had anywhere from 18,000 to 46,000 views on YouTube.
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Joan Voight is a Contributing Editor to ClickZ. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has covered online and offline media, marketing and advertising since the mid-1990s for several business publications. She spent nine years at Adweek magazine, where she was San Francisco bureau chief, national senior writer and contributing reporter.
March 19, 2014