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Major Ad Effort For Zenith Has Youthful Target

Zenith launched its biggest ad campaign in more than 15 years to change its image among younger consumers from a reliable maker of console and analog TVs into a digital firebrand.

The national print and TV campaign is the third leg of strategic marketing triad in which the company has overhauled its product lineup and distribution channels to focus on upscale digital products sold through stores with assisted sales floors. The ad campaign will account for most of the $30 million that the company will spend on promotion in 2001.

“The Zenith franchise is an older, analog demographic,” said Wayne Park, senior VP of sales and marketing. “There is still awareness of the brand among younger consumers, but we must change their perception.”

The product reality is that the company’s 2001 SKUs, most shipping in July and August, are built around a TV selection that’s about 70 percent digital compared to less than 5 percent last year, Park said. The distribution reality is that the brand has eschewed self-sell retail environments to focus on retailers with assisted sales floors and a commitment to display products and educate consumers, he said. “Now that the product and channels are in place, we have developed an advertising campaign to shake the market,” he said.

The company’s new retail accounts include Circuit City. Zenith has also achieved about 60-70 percent of its goal of signing up between 100 to 150 other accounts, including regional power retailers, independent AV and appliance/electronics specialists, and custom installers, Park said. Franchises go to dealers who are digital leaders in their markets or “who are moving into the digital arena very soon,” he said. They must also promise to support a broad selection of Zenith products, he added.

Ads began appearing in July and will run through mid-December in consumer magazines, on network cable TV, and on radio to create more than 525 million advertising impressions. Media venues were chosen to appeal to well-educated, high-income consumers in two age groups: 25-34 and 35-44.

One ad depicts a group of young men whose aim is misdirected as they watch a 60-inch Zenith plasma TV hung above a row of urinals in a nightclub bathroom. The other shows a parachutist pulling a ripcord, only to watch in horror as articles of clothing fly out of his parachute pack. The commercial cuts to an airplane hangar, where a guy watches a 15.1-inch Zenith LCD TV as he stuffs a parachute. Both shots end with the words “Careful. That’s a Zenith digital TV you’re looking at” and a “Digitize the experience” tagline.

Although the TV and print ads will highlight the LCD TV and plasma TV, they won’t focus on features and benefits but will “create a tone and personality” to reposition the brand, said Sam Caputo, director of advertising and brand management.