Move Into High-Def Gets Ads For TVs Back On TV

Pioneer Electronics this week unveils the first multispot campaign for its PureVision plasmas, as high-definition continues to bring ads for TVs back to TV.

The campaign, created by independent RPA in Santa Monica, Calif., and set to debut Thursday during a special opening-day edition of ABC’s Monday Night Football, represents Pioneer’s latest attempt to gain ground in an increasingly competitive and high-profile category. The spot airing Thursday not only promotes HDTV sets, it was filmed in high-def—the first such spot to air on MNF.

“HDTV is doing great. We used to joke that it stood for ‘high dollar, tiny volume,’ ” said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., who estimated that plasma-TV sales will total 5 million in the U.S. this year. “It ain’t tiny volume anymore. They’re experiencing the nirvana of high volume, high price, and still making a profit.”

Bernoff said innovative marketing from the likes of Pioneer, Samsung and Panasonic (including Panasonic’s co-marketing with digital cable) is crucial because “it is difficult to differentiate the product based on what consumers have seen or heard about it, unless they are a videophile.”

Russ Johnston, Pioneer’s svp of marketing, said the effort, which includes print and online ads, will run through the end of the year and culminate in the company’s title sponsorship of college football’s Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 23.

Johnston declined to discuss a budget for the work. But he said he wants Pioneer to represent 20-25 percent of all U.S. ad spending on HDTV.

TV makers spent $106 million advertising their sets in 2003, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. That is nearly double 2002’s $66 million and a far cry from the $25 million spent in 1996, just before the introduction of digital TVs. (Standard TVs had become so competitively priced that manufacturers faced small profit margins and were unwilling to put much advertising behind them.)

Long Beach, Calif.-based Pioneer spent $5 million on PureVision in 2003, while Gateway was the plasma-TV ad leader, spending $24 million, according to TNS/CMR.

RPA’s campaign includes a variation on last year’s sole TV ad for PureVision, which showed a blond surfer girl navigating a radical wave. Other spots focus on colorful, HD-friendly moments, such as auto racing (shot at a Pike’s Peak track with HD cameras), horse racing and snowboarding. The campaign retains the brand’s ongoing tagline, “Where does reality end and PureVision begin?”

“In this category, we’ve seen our competitors change strategies and creative executions every year,” said Kirt Danner, vp and director of marketing at RPA. “We believe that continuity and consistency will make us stand out over time.”