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Toshiba Sets Its Laptops Free on TV

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NEW YORK It might surprise many consumers to learn that Toshiba is largely to thank for today's ubiquitous laptop computers, as the company pioneered the category over two decades ago.

Now, the client hopes to get word out with a return to traditional media after a lengthy hiatus from TV advertising.
 
For the past several years, Toshiba has relied mostly on a retail sales strategy via relationships with stores such as Best Buy and Walmart, along with online marketing. The U.S. division of the Japanese computer giant is altering course, however, rolling out its first TV campaign since 2000. The effort is aimed at bolstering Toshiba's brand image in the eyes of consumers and reminding them of the firm's heritage of innovation in computing.
 
The company recently said it expects 40 percent growth in U.S. sales in the second quarter, and it rolled out two low-cost netbook models to compete with offerings from Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
 
"We're seeing a lot of momentum," said Ron Smith, vp, marketing in Toshiba's digital products division. "We decided it was time to get a bigger brand message out."
 
The nine-week "Set you free" effort aligns Toshiba laptops with the idea of liberating consumers, suggesting that technology from other providers can trap them. In one spot, a man joins a crowd of runners who are carrying laptops; while the others are felled by invisible barriers, the Toshiba-carrying man plows ahead to freedom.
 
The campaign is meant to recapture the mantle of leadership for Toshiba. The brand maintains a healthy share of the market, but providers like Apple, with its Macbook line, are more often seen as category innovators.
 
Toshiba ranks as the No. 4 seller of laptops, with a 12.1 percent domestic and worldwide share, according to IDC.
 
"Our products are hitting the right chords with consumers," Smith said. "As opposed to pulling back, this was a time to go out and reinforce our message."
 
The spots, which will run on TV and in movie theaters in 15-, 30- and 60-second iterations, form the basis of an integrated campaign created by Young & Rubicam Brands, Southern California that also includes print, out-of-home and digital elements. The commercials will appear through September on major networks during programs like The Today Show, Gossip Girl and So You Think You Can Dance.
 
Print tries to align Toshiba with innovation. Copy in one ad reads: "In 1985, Toshiba brought you the laptop. 6,927 patents later, we're bringing you its future." The ads will run in lifestyle publications.
 
Customers often don't immediately associate Toshiba with laptops since its parent company makes everything from televisions to elevators, Smith said. "We want to remind people we're a very powerful laptop company as well," he explained.
 
Toshiba would not disclose spending for the push. According to Nielsen, which shares a parent company with Adweek, Toshiba's measured media spending, excluding online, was $4.4 million last year, down from $8 million in 2007 and $10.5 million in 2006.
 
Toshiba is also sponsoring the MTV VMA Awards. That effort includes a roadblock on the VMA home page. Interactive banner ads in the campaign stress the "freedom" theme, and one gives users the illusion of controlling the weather. They can increase wind, for instance, causing the Toshiba laptop in the ad to fall over.

The client is also kicking off a viral campaign in which the residents of towns called Normal and Boring will compete to see which can become more exciting with the winner, to be determined by MySpace member voting, receiving Toshiba computer equipment.