OPINION: MILLS ON ... SONY

A few weeks ago, Will Harris, the on-sabbatical head of marketing at O2, painted a vision of a world split into two types of people: super-users of mobile phones, and users.

What a nightmare. "Hold on a moment, Will," you think. "Isn't that a bit presumptuous?" First of all, he is assuming that everyone will own or have access to a mobile phone. And second, he forgets third and fourth categories, such as reluctant or useless users of mobile phones. I consider myself halfway between those third and fourth categories - someone who doesn't really like mobile phones and can only achieve the most basic level of interaction with them.

Like gays before homosexuality was legalised, we technophobes keep our failings private. We find coping mechanisms, speak our own coded language and are delighted when we find fellow members of the club. But it's a frightening world, one in which the division between the techno-savvy and everybody else widens every day. As technology progresses in leaps and bounds, so that even the simplest products become more complicated to operate, technophobia is almost like a 21st century form of autism.

The truth, of course, is that there are probably more technophobes out there than anybody cares to admit, but the interesting thing is that there are signs that advertisers whose business is built on technology are beginning to recognise the issue. If so, it's a reversal of the norm; standard behaviour for hi-tech advertisers is to go in the opposite direction, extolling technological advances as though they alone were sufficient reason to buy.

Irritating as he is, Dylan and his Orange trainers are at heart an attempt to reach out and put a comforting arm around technophobes.

In its latest campaign, and its first through Fallon, Sony too has identified the phenomenon. Perhaps more explicitly than the TV work, the moment I saw this poster I thought that here was an ad that spoke to me. There's Becky and Marc in this 48-sheet poster, looking relieved, rather than triumphant - if I can put it in such terms - at the loss of their multimedia virginity. And you know what? They look like perfectly normal people, not alpha technogeeks of the kind who sneer at anybody who doesn't know their jack plug from their jacksie. Yesss! Even I could be like Becky and Marc. Blimey, maybe I could even shoot my own film and then edit a soundtrack to fit.

One more thing: notice that the Sony products are almost invisible, and the focus is on Becky and Marc. A technology ad in which the product isn't the hero? How refreshing, how humanising. But then when your endline is "You make it a Sony", that's obviously the way to go.

That's one level on which the ad works. But the strategic dimension bears investigation too. Just a few years ago, Sony's competitive set was well defined: Panasonic, Aiwa, Philips, Toshiba and other manufacturers of what you might loosely call home entertainment kit.

Today, thanks to digitisation, chip power, connectivity and miniaturisation, it is a very different world. You can get your music or shoot film through a mobile phone. Computers play music and DVDs. MP3 players and i-Pods have given new meaning to portability and accessibility. My eldest son, for example, plays all his music through his laptop.

What this means is that Sony's competitive set is much wider and includes everybody from Apple to Dell, Microsoft, 3 and Vodafone. Sony's ace, of course, is that of all those currently in, or those who aspire to be in, this group, it has phenomenal entertainment credentials, perhaps the strongest.

And from PCs to video-cams, mobile phones, DVD and CD players, it also has the strongest product range. As a brand, it comfortably carries virtues such as trust, integrity, innovation and heritage.

That's not a bad place to start from. Nor are these ads, which set out Sony's stall in a convincing way. Where they go next will be the real test.

Dead cert for a Pencil? No, but I suspect there's a lot more to come.

File under ... L-F for Luddite-friendly.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Come on, let's make movies!"