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Panasonic Bows Plasma Campaign

Secaucus, N.J. — Panasonic reinforced its intention to strengthen the brand’s market-share positions by announcing aggressive new marketing campaigns for plasma televisions, DVD-RAM-centric multiformat DVD recorders and digital cameras, while introducing new lower price positions with the delivery of two plasma TV lines.

During a Spring line review at Panasonic’s U.S. headquarters, here, Andrew Nelkin, Panasonic’s consumer display VP, kicked off what he called Panasonic’s “most aggressive launch campaign ever” for the new selling season.

The “integrated campaign,” will use national and cable television advertising, radio and newspaper spots, and in-store merchandising, sales training and promotions.

The company signed on Hollywood director Andrew Douglas (“Amityville Horror”) to produce the television commercials. Three spots were produced addressing plasma, DVD recorders and digital cameras.

Nelkin said the advertisements are expected to reach 96 percent of the target audience with a frequency of almost 25 times. The spots will appear on broadcast network programs including “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” “Law & Order,” “American Idol” and “24,” and on such cable networks as A&E, Bravo, CNN, DIY, ESPN, Sci-Fi and TNT.

Radio ads will be featured on “Imus in the Morning” and “The Howard Stern Show.” Also planned is an eight-page newspaper insert on May 22nd. Panasonic will flag attention to a $300 installation allowance offer and free financing options for the plasma line.

Also at the event, the company unveiled new PX500 and PX50 lines of fully integrated plasma digital TV sets.

The PX500 line of high-definition integrated plasma sets includes the 42W-inch ($3,999 suggested retail) and 50W-inch ($5,499) screen sizes. Both models feature integrated ATSC tuners, CableCARD slots, TV Guide On Screen EPGs, 3,000:1 contrast ratios, sub-pixel controllers, six-speaker audio systems and 8.58 billion color capabilities.

The PX50 line offers 37W-inch ($2,999), 42W-inch ($3,499) and 50W-inch ($4,999) screen sizes and includes many of the same features as the PX500 models, but omits the EPG and substitutes a different speaker system.

Panasonic lowered pricing approximately 36 percent from the previous year’s 42W-inch HD model, which was launched at a $5,499 suggested retail price.

Pricing on the 37W-inch HD model fell 25 percent from $3,999 last year, while the 50W-inch model declined 29 percent from $6,999.

Speaking at the event, Yoshi Yamada, chairman of Panasonic North America, said: “We are very sharply focused on plasma TV as a strategic direction this year,” adding that Panasonic will open its fourth plasma factory later this year, expanding the company’s worldwide capacity to 4.8 million units a year, by the end of 2006.

Yamada said that plasma continues to dominate flat-panel television screen sizes larger than 37-inches, while LCD dominates flat-panel sales below 37-inches.

Nelkin said that within two weeks of the shipment of Panasonic’s TH-42PV50 EDTV plasma TV in April, the model took the No. 1 market share position, while helping the company’s share of the overall flat-panel TV business top 30 percent.

“This share has now held four weeks in a row and our sell-through velocity has increased in each of the last six weeks,” said Nelkin, adding that Panasonic has held the No. 1 market-share position for large-screen flat-panel TV for most of the last eight months, dropping out for only one week since September 2004.