Sony-Nat Geo Ad Effort Pushes HD

Nov 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Sony-which like many marketers continues to seek information on the effectiveness of its television commercials-has bought a multiplatform ad package for its high-definition sets that should make its advertising results more clear.

The electronics manufacturer has agreed to a sponsorship with National Geographic Channel, which is launching its own high-definition channel in January.

The deal, valued at about $1 million, calls for Sony to get spots on Nat Geo beginning next week and on Nat Geo HD when it launches. In addition, the pact calls for viewers of the campaign to be directed to Nat Geo’s Web site, where viewers’ responses can be tracked.

Nat Geo is creating on-air interstitial content that explains the advantages of hi-def TV to viewers. Those interstitials will be co-branded with Sony and feature Sony equipment.

The on-air elements are designed to drive viewers to the Nat Geo Web site, where Nat Geo will be able to quantify how many viewers are responding to the campaign.

On the Web site, more information about HD will be available, both in written form and through broadband video clips, including tutorials on HD. Video will include commercials for Sony, and the site will feature links to Sony’s HD site.

The Nat Geo-Sony campaign also tells viewers about a sweepstakes that can be entered only via the Nat Geo Web site. The sweepstakes’ top prize is an HD living room featuring Sony products.

“The idea is to encourage a consumer or viewer to do something, to seek out information and entertainment,” said Bruce Lefkowitz, senior VP of ad sales for Fox Cable Networks Group. (Nat Geo is a joint venture between Fox Cable and National Geographic.)

“It’s hard to do,” Mr. Lefkowitz added. “How many times to do go to someone’s Web site or enter a contest? How compelling is your offer and how deep do you go?”

The information gleaned from the Web hits brings an advertiser closer to being able to calculate his return on investment, something most marketers are keen on these days.

Executives at Sony were unavailable to comment. Sony’s media buying agency, Universal McCann, referred questions to Sony.

Many marketers have been looking at engagement as a way of gauging the effectiveness of their commercials. Engagement attempts to determine not just how many viewers see a spot but how many react in some measurable way. Ultimately, they’d really like to know how many of the people who saw the ad went on to buy their product.

Andy Donchin, director of broadcast at Carat, one of four agencies that have made deals with Court TV and other networks guaranteeing a certain level of engagement for its clients, said Carat’s guarantees are based on proprietary research rather than tracing Internet hits.

“Our engagement deals haven’t been going down that road, but they could,” Mr. Donchin said. “If you can generate a lead from a commercial on television and then move them to the Internet, that’s engagement, that’s actually a call to action and doing something.”

Mr. Lefkowitz said National Geographic isn’t guaranteeing Sony that its ads would generate a specific number of Web hits or requests for broadband video yet. He said Nat Geo’s Web site now generates relatively low traffic levels, so he would be uncomfortable making projections. “If our site were bigger, like ESPN or Discovery, you know we’re going to have to do that,” he said.

He declined to speculate on how many clicks or downloads would spell success for this campaign. But he said, “If 5,000 people buy sets, that’s a pretty good ROI at $3,000 apiece.”

Mr. Lefkowitz calls the process of using ads to create measurable activity by consumers activation. With this deal with Sony, “We bring people in and engage them as they move through the activation funnel.”

Activation is also used as a term in the sports marketing area. Marketers activate sponsorships with teams by creating promotions involving those teams that highlight their brand and its qualities, marketing executives said.

The Sony HD campaign on Nat Geo is scheduled to run through January. The bulk of HDTV sets are bought in December and January, mostly as either holiday purchases or for watching the Super Bowl.