Inside Grey’s Panasonic Campaign

NEW YORK When Grey was developing a new brand campaign for Panasonic last year, the agency and its longtime client came across some intriguing insights about how consumers viewed the line of electronics.

Research showed that just about every household contained something made by Panasonic, yet the brand had only 21 percent of the U.S. market share.

“People felt about Panasonic the way you might feel about your uncle,” said Grey’s North American chief creative officer Tim Mellors. “He’s a nice bloke, but you wouldn’t want to go on a camping holiday with him.”

As part of Advertising Week, Panasonic, Grey and Mediacom presented a “Conversations” panel during which they talked about the campaign strategy and its results at the Bloomberg Building here today. Mediacom chairman and chief global buying officer Jon Mandel and Panasonic CMO Robert Greenberg joined Mellors.

By injecting some humanity into the creative and developing a counter-intuitive media plan, Grey and its WPP Group sibling Mediacom produced the “Ideas for life” campaign that broke in April 2005. Five months later, the Panasonic brand market share has grown from 21 percent to 55 percent, said Greenberg.

Mellors talked about how, for many years, Sony was considered the electronic entertainment benchmark in consumers’ minds. That changed with the success of Apple’s iPod and subsequent Macintosh sales, Mandel added, creating a gap in the category that Panasonic could exploit.

Instead of buying media for the new campaign during the fourth-quarter holiday season, which is when electronics brands do their heaviest messaging, Mandel and his team decided to buy heavily in April and May and on radio. The reasons were threefold: entertainment electronics, especially TVs, are used every day; by advertising heavily in those months, the brand message would resonate more because competitors advertise more heavily in the fourth quarter; and running ads on radio during the evening rush hour drive time made consumers think more about the TV they were going home to watch, Mandel said.

The radio ads gave TV listings for programming that was being broadcast in high-definition, said Greenberg, which raised awareness about which channels had that capability and drove awareness and curiosity about Panasonic’s plasma-screen televisions.

Attendees didn’t get to see the actual campaign until the end of the 90-minute presentation because of technological glitches at the Bloomberg facility, a situation Mellors found both amusing and an illustration of what’s “human.” He and his team wanted to infuse the brand campaign with humanity, he said.

One spot for a TV showed various scenes as a narrator asked questions: Boys playing soccer see a woman hang a bra on a clothesline and one of them begins to strut. “What is the color of bravado?” the narrator asks. A carful of hip-hop guys glides down a street and as they glance at a house decorated with Christmas lights, they all light up themselves for a brief moment, and the narrator asks, “What is the color of innocence?” The end scene shows a funeral procession in which the somber priest glances at the woman behind him who is wearing a bright red dress under her black coat. “What is the color of defiance?” the voiceover asks.

Mellors said the last scene was controversial for executives at Panasonic headquarters in Japan: “A funeral procession is not exactly bang-on entertainment, but it’s arresting.” He added that the vignette kept consumers engaged until the end, wondering who the woman was, why she was wearing red and about the meaningful glance from the priest. At Greenberg’s suggestion, Grey leveraged the image in a direct mail campaign that asked, “Who is this woman?”