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The Wiz Wows ‘Em In Jersey With New Ad Campaign, Store

MILLTOWN, N.J. — April was a busy month for The Wiz, the New York metro area CE specialty chain.

Besides breaking its first major ad campaign under the ownership of Cablevision Systems Corp., the telecommunication and entertainment colossus, the retailer opened its first new format store in New Jersey (the second in the chain) that features innovative display and design concepts and better leverages its Cablevision parentage.

The ad effort, which broke over the weekend of April 21, focuses on The Wiz’s sales associates under the theme of “The Wiz Kids Are Coming.” The comedic campaign, which features Olympic gold medal swimmer and TV host Summer Sanders, emphasizes the knowledge and helpfulness of the sales associates. The ads will play out in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area via six core TV commercials aired in 30-second, 15-second and 10-second variations, along with print and radio spots.

“It’s all about being a whiz kid, which implies being knowledgeable, because most of what we sell is technically complicated,” explained Tasso Koken, executive VP/merchandising and marketing for the chain. “But our sales team is varied in age, and the message is that everybody’s a Wiz Kid, whether you’re two or 82.”

The campaign was created by Customer Strategies Worldwide, The Wiz’s ad agency of record for just over a year, and represents “the first big campaign under Cablevision,” Koken said.

The campaign’s launch dovetailed with the opening of The Wiz’s 42nd store (where some of the footage was shot) in this New York bedroom community here. Located in a newly built strip mall anchored by a Target and Home Depot, the store is actually a relocation from a nearby town that is outside of Cablevision’s service area.

The 20,000-square-foot unit (with 13,000 square feet of selling space) is actually a smaller version of a sibling store that opened in the Long Island suburb of Plainview, N.Y., late last year. (See TWICE, Dec. 4, p. 1). Both represent “the store of the future” for The Wiz, which will begin converting about six existing units to the new format this year, although no chainwide timetable has been set.

Like its Long Island predecessor, the Milltown unit features flexible fixturing; a Wiz Kids Corner devoted to electronic toys, music and movies for children under 12; wood finishes and lighter, residential colors for a homier feel; and a centerpiece 20 x 7.5-foot video wall that runs programming about Cablevision’s entertainment properties and services.

Indeed, the integration of Cablevision into the store’s format is perhaps the most striking element of the redesign, and represents the fruition of the corporation’s game plan in acquiring the then-struggling chain. The parent is apparent everywhere, from the logos of its sports teams imbedded in the wood-planked power aisle to the Radio City Music Hall-branded toys to a Cablevision customer service counter where consumers can sign up for its Optimum Online high-speed Internet service and cable subscribers can access their accounts.

“The new format provides cross promotional opportunities,” noted Koken. “We’re one company and are all part of one strategy. We’re the vessel for this.”

The strategy will take another quantum leap this fall when Cablevision is expected to begin selling Sony-made, non-open cable compliant digital set-top boxes through Wiz stores. Features of the boxes, which are currently being beta tested in Long Island, include video on demand, e-mail, existing video channels and new digital channels, and a “managed Web environment” that will include transactional services, games and an interactive guide with local content.

So far, Koken is “very happy” with the fruits of those joint efforts. Business, despite the slowing economy and recent entry into this market by Best Buy, remains brisk he said, led by “very, very strong” sales of HDTV in both 16:9 and 4:3 formats, as well as DVD, home theater systems and digital cameras and camcorders.

Looking ahead to the fall, Koken anticipates the opening of The Wiz’s 43rd store, in Manalapan, N.J., and the high-profile rollout of DataPlay’s 500MB storage disks, of which he is a strong advocate. “It could be a very strong addition to the removable storage market, and we hope to be a part of the launch,” he said.