Close-Up: Why Sony isn't after another 'balls'

By Claire Beale, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 April 2010 12:00AM

Anomaly's challenge is to create a 'strategic blueprint' for the electronics giant.

Of course, what you really want to know is whether the new Sony ads are any good.

The first campaign since Sony parted company with Fallon (the agency that created some of the most iconic ads of the last decade). The first big campaign by Anomaly since the US hotshop dug its toes into British soil. Yes, there's an awful lot riding on these ads. Simply being good would be rather a disappointment against Sony's track record.

The ads are good ... just. Not great, though. Definitely not great. Not "balls", "paint" or "Play-Doh" great. But then Fallon wasn't doing "great" by the time it lost the Sony account last autumn.

And let's be clear: great advertising was never what the Sony pitch was really about. The big, beautiful film with a nice YouTube second life wasn't what the beleaguered Japanese electronics giant was looking for. It's certainly not what it needs.

"We'd be idiots to think people aren't going to compare this work with previous campaigns," Sony's European marketing director, Ben Moore, admits. "Those ads were absolutely right for their time. But the new campaign is right for the new Sony, a new time."

So Anomaly's Sony debut needs to be viewed through a different prism. According to Moore, what Sony needs is an approach that recognises all the different iterations of the Sony brand, from its film and music assets through PlayStation and into the camera, computer and TV hardware.

Sony needs to leverage the breadth of its range more efficiently and if there's a big idea behind the new strategy, it's to position Sony as "a digitally networked entertainment company".

"We're competing against Sky, Google, Amazon, but working with these sorts of companies too ... they're frenemies and we need to be as relevant as possible against all these different consumer experiences," he explains.

It's a tremendous challenge given the scale and scope of the Sony empire, its ingrained siloed structure, it's financial problems and its apparent conservative corporate culture.

Paul Graham, a partner at Anomaly, says the starting point was to understand "the experiences of all different types of Sony consumer and the conversations we need to have with them at each point through the purchase cycle, from their initial research into product specs and prices through to purchase and then on to them becoming brand advocates".

And Moore thinks the Sony approach to communications could itself offer a blueprint for a new way of working with agencies: "We've ended up with a redefinition of the whole account management philosophy, the old filtration system. We're embracing a period of chaos, encouraging more collaboration and individual autonomy, but there needs to be a super producer sitting at the centre to pull everything together and give a focus."

Moore explains that the focus and the upstream creative concept will always come from Anomaly - and he's very clear that's Anomaly the global entity, not Anomaly London, though Graham and the partner Geoff Gray are the core team: "Then we'll find the best-in-class people to make it a reality."

So the new campaign includes digital work from Tonic, word-of-mouth and PR from Immediate Future, and experiential and tactical in-market executions by OMD. Dare and Naked are also key Sony agencies.

The first results of this new approach perhaps display too clearly the pitfalls of collaboration and the scale of Sony's holistic ambition.

There isn't a clear enough sense of focus and the films are trying to achieve too much: pushing the new Bravia TV while highlighting Sony's Fifa sponsorship, Sony's music assets (such as AC/DC), driving customers online and trying to pull everything together under the ultimately meaningless "make.believe" tag. The result is simply too confusing.

But it's impossible to argue that Sony needs to bring its incredibly strong sub-brands more effectively together. And it's impossible to argue that the old advertising model is simply no longer enough.

As Moore concludes: "'Balls' was a beautiful piece of film, but will it allow us to do all the things we need to do with the Sony brand now? No. There will be times again when we'll need a great advertising idea, but it's not what Sony needs right now."

How adland rates Anomaly's first TV work for Sony

- George Prest, executive creative director, DLKW

This is a tough one. We know that Anomaly won the Sony business off the back of an all-enveloping strategy that moved away from Fallon's TV-centric approach. But all I've got to judge the campaign on is two 60-second TV ads.

The creative vehicle, kids as adults, is not a new one. Nor is the strategy of dreams coming true.

Having said that, they're well put together. And the football one especially has some nice touches.

But is it possible to divine from them what exactly it was that won the business for Anomaly?

No, it's not. And they have this very strange endline, "make.believe". Which, unless I'm missing something, means "nonsense".

I'm sure all will become clear when the campaign breaks across all channels. I hope so. Anomaly is a glimpse of all of our futures. And for that reason, I want it to be great.

- Russell Ramsey, executive creative director, JWT

Two big, confident films for Sony with a big director and a budget - unfortunately, these films are a little disappointing.

Frank Budgen has put them together beautifully, as usual. Good casting, good editing, good music. Sixty seconds long and no voiceover: a director's dream.

The rock ad really captures the atmosphere and scale of the event and I was surprised when they were seamlessly transported into their bedroom. However, the line "Imagine the possibilities" left me feeling a bit flat.

The football ad is a more sedate affair. From about halfway through, I was waiting for the punchline. Again, the kids are seamlessly placed somewhere else. This time in a local park.

OK, so I'm starting to get the point: the big event is in their imagination. Overall, however, I'm still left a bit confused. Is this a service for kids? What exactly does it do? Why did Sony move out of Fallon?

- Nils Leonard, executive creative director, Grey London

I like Anomaly. I like its intent. Is the Sony piece of business an amazing win for it as a company? Yes. Is this work what it should be, coming after pieces of work that changed how our industry creates content? Nah.

I found myself wishing the treatment was different, scary, unnerving even. The rock one feels a bit like a dodgy Marks & Spencer ad. Where in typical Anomaly style was the way to get involved? The hook that drove me online to a community of child-minded creators or the strategy that opened a never-seen-before dialogue between tech brand and consumer? It feels like Anomaly may have allowed the scale of Sony to stop it doing what it seems to do best.

Almost a revert to type, I'm upset to see an agency famed for chasing IP over ads and creative business over traditional poster campaigns make work as normal as this.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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