Olympus Boosts Commitment To Consumers and the Pros

The chance to flirt from afar with a stranger is the latest cheeky benefit offered by Olympus as it pushes harder to cement a reputation for product innovation and attract professional photographers.

In a new TV spot from The Martin Agency, this one for the C740, the latest product in Olympus’ Ultra Zoom line, a man sitting at a cafe table in Central Park aims his digital camera from a distance at a woman on a bench. As Big Head Todd & the Monsters’ version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” intensifies, the 10X optical zoom extends toward the woman, and the point of view shifts to that of the camera. The spot ends with a close-up of the girl’s smile.

The ad, which broke Saturday on cable, reflects Olympus’ revised positioning of innovation, captured in the tagline, “Designed to do more.” The line, written by copywriter Steve Bassett for Olympus’ consumer efforts and unveiled in September in a spot for the Stylus, replaces “Nothing’s impossible.”

Other ads in the Richmond, Va., agency’s campaign target pro shooters. Those get a slightly modified line: “Designed to see more.”

Olympus has been steadily expanding its marketing commitment since returning to TV three years ago following a six-year hiatus, said Martin Lee, vp of marketing for consumer products. The Melville, N.Y.-based U.S. division of the Japanese company is spending up to $50 million this year on media and sponsorships, Lee said. Olympus spent $20 million on measured media in 2002, up from $10 million in 2000, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The increased spending backs various new products. Olympus this summer rolled out the E-1, its first interchangeable-lens digital SLR system. With 16 percent of the consumer digital-camera market, Olympus trails Sony and Canon by only a point or two, said Michelle Slaughter, director of digital photography trends for InfoTrends Research Group in Norwell, Mass. The professional market remains dominated by Canon and Nikon, Slaughter said.

To catch the eye of the pros, Olympus has forged promotional tie-ins at events where they gather. It is in the first year of a three-year contract with Ferrari Formula One Racing and also became the official camera and binocular of September’s U.S. Open tennis tournament and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. A fourth sponsorship is with NCAA college football: Olympus is the title sponsor of CBS’ pre-game show, which draws “an incredible demographic among alumni and dedicated fans in the peak of selling season,” Lee said.

The company was also heavily involved in the creation of America 24/7, a book published in September that features images of everyday life in the U.S. Olympus outfitted 1,000 photojournalists with its cameras for the project and also invited consumers to submit photos taken with their digital cameras.

“We wanted to promote the experience of using digital photography and encourage everyone to grab [a digital camera] and see the difference,” Lee said.

“When you see the camera in the hands of the professional photographer, it sends a signal to the average consumer that they’re getting a great product,” added marketing consultant Kelly O’Keefe of Emergence Brand Labs in Atlanta.