CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - Celeb angle wins friends for Sony AIBO

Client: Sony AIBO

PR Team: Phipps PR

Campaign: UK launch of second generation Sony AIBO robot

Timescale: September 2000 - June 2001

Budget: Undisclosed



After the launch of the first limited edition AIBO robot in 1998, Sony's

second-generation electronic dog was a tough act to follow in PR

terms.



The robot costs just over £1,000 and is available only from

www.aibo.com. As an 'old' news story it was in danger of being relegated

to 'news-in-brief' spots in the press.



Objectives



To position AIBO as the must-have tech toy for men aged 25 to

45-years-old. To cement Sony's reputation as an innovator.



Strategy and Plan



Phipps used what it terms an 'immersion process' to position the AIBO as

a 'celebrity in its own right' while maintaining the technology

angle.



Account manager Caroline Nelson became a personal publicist for AIBO,

pinpointing The Guardian, PC World, T3, Wallpaper* and Tomorrow's World

as priority media after an audit disclosed they each held the highest

conversion rate from coverage to sales in their field.



All were offered exclusives and interviews with Sony Entertainment Robot

Company president, Satoshi Amagai.



On release, Phipps sold in alternative story angles calling AIBO a

fashion accessory (Red magazine), the gadget of the future (Maxim), and

the ultimate in pet accessories for its ability to bypass no-dog

policies (The Independent).



Phipps' photocall lured journalists to the London Eye with the promise

of a spectacular, new innovation from Sony and the first-time appearance

of a certain 'someone' in Europe.



A detailed 'celebrity' tour was also planned in which AIBO accompanied

journalists on a London bus tour demonstrating features such as its

'digital eye', which takes photographs. Phipps balanced this with

one-to-one interviews with technology correspondents from The Times and

FT, and with website journalists.



The tour culminated with the MTV Awards where AIBO appeared among stars

such as U2's Bono and Kylie Minogue cementing its celebrity status. A

million people saw live images from the event broadcast on MTVi. No

money changed hands between MTV and Phipps.



Finally, the celebrity tour took AIBO to chat shows such as So Graham

Norton and The Big Breakfast. And through Phipps' client Columbia

Tristar, AIBO amanaged to wangle invites to film premieres, fashion

launches and restaurant openings.



Measurement and Evaluation



According to Sony's internal evaluation coverage, AIBO has resulted in

50 million consumer impressions in the UK alone.



Five front covers on priority targets were gained, plus ten illustrated

features in targeted press, 80 minutes of national TV coverage and 26

website features. Order targets have been exceeded by 150 per cent.



Results



Only slightly less media hungry than Geri Halliwell, AIBO is arguably

the most famous robot dog since K-9 - this has meant glowing sales

reports.



But in terms of technological innovation, consumers investing in AIBO

don't only get a cute executive toy but a piece of AI with the brain of

your average PC; a core message that does not seem to have been dampened

by its new-found celebrity status.



Phipps PR's campaign won Nelson the PRCA Frontline best media relations

award.



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