Q&A: 10 years on from 'Balls', how is Sony pushing technical and creative boundaries to stay ahead of the competition?

It's been 10 years since the now iconic Bravia 'Balls' campaign launched and shone a light on the creative ambitions Sony had for its advertising.

In 2005, Sony launched thousands of bouncy balls down a hill in San Francisco to illustrate the depth of colour, detail, and quality of its Bravia TVs. It has gone down in history as one of the most iconic adverts ever made.

Since then, the brand has impressed time and again with beautifully crafted films, using imagery and music to elicit an emotional response in consumers. But is that enough to drive sales of TVs? The Drum caught up with Mikio Nakazawa, head of pan-European brand activation at Sony to find out more.

Why do you think the creative direction Sony's adverts have taken over the past 10 years have resonated so much with viewers as opposed to adverts which might delve into the technical features of a Bravia TV?

Sony has always focused on giving customers great experiences through our products and services. This is true in our advertising. The creative direction of our adverts give us a great way of engaging viewers in ways that other brands cannot by pushing technical and creative boundaries each and every time we create a new campaign. At Sony we are always challenging new horizons, and always striving for the best.

Is it easy to avoid the 'hard sell' we so often see in adverts for tech products?

Our heritage and passion is always to achieve better picture quality, that’s what the audience feels when they are watching TV, and that’s what we what to excite them with by showing off the celebration of detail you can get with a 4K TV. Our unique technology means that we can create a wow with the content of the picture.

How much pressure do you feel to produce an advert that impresses as much as what has gone before?

Sony is renowned for innovation in its products – and also in its advertising. We like to push the boundaries of what is creatively and technically possible with every new TV product range, and equally so with every new campaign. With our strong heritage, we are compelled to create emotionally engaging ads that are also technically unique – for example this time we flew drone-mounted 4K cameras into a huge firework displays. So, rather than being a pressure, we see our history as a challenge to improve and innovate.

'Balls' was loved as much for its striking visuals as the soundtrack (Jose Gonzalez's cover of Heartbeat shot to no.9 in the charts). Music has since played an important role in your creative executive. Why?

Sony is unique in the fact that we have fantastic links with musical talent. Consulting Sony Music’s Brand Partnership & Music Licensing division this time enabled us to work with Kygo and Conrad Sewell to create a unique version of Firestone that helped to portray the emotional feeling in the television commercial. Our TV range doesn’t just have incredible picture technology, it also has fantastic sound quality too.

How have your Bravia films impacted metrics such as brand perception and purchase consideration? Can you discuss effect on sales?

Sony’s previous two advertising campaigns have been more targeted in their approach – the main aim has been to raise awareness of 4K amongst consumers, specifically ‘early adopters’ of technology through highlighting the product benefits. During the campaign period we saw a strong uplift in 4K awareness and understanding of its benefits but more importantly an increase in consideration of Sony amongst premium TV buyers. The campaigns have also had a wider knock on effect amongst the total TV market, with consumers increasingly seeing Sony as an innovative brand with strong momentum which has helped drive improvements in our market share.

What are you expecting from your latest advert, 'Fireworks' - what does success look like?

We want to continue to increase awareness of 4K but ultimately it’s about positioning Sony as the brand consumers associate with the technology. We are aligning the media placements much more closely to the customer journey so that those people looking to buy a new TV immediately think of Sony and understand the benefits our products offer. And this isn’t just about 4K, but also highlighting great design of the TV’s and the wide range of services and content available through the Android TV platform.

For your two most recent campaigns specifically, how challenging is it to convince consumers to purchase a 4K Ultra HD campaign when 4K broadcasting has yet to become standard?

It is less challenging this year as 4k is available in a wider range of screen sizes and at varying price points, making it attainable for many more households. Also, we know from our consumer research that having a TV with the best picture quality, and one that is future proofed remains the key driver to buying a new TV. With online services from the likes of Amazon and Netflix offering 4K today, consumers are able to experience what 4K can offer right now, and despite the lack of broadcast content our latest range of 4K TV’s are able to deliver superior picture performance on Full HD TV and Blu-Ray discs thanks to their ability to upscale to near 4Km allowing consumers to benefit from having the latest technology.

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