231-922-9460 | Google +

Monday, January 12, 2009

LG to Set Sparks Flying

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

London's fireworks this New Year's Eve will come with something extra: a promotional plug.

For the first time, London's municipal government has sold sponsorship rights to the end-of-year spectacle above the River Thames.

The buyer is South Korean consumer-goods manufacturer LG Electronics, which is using the event to send the message that its products make life fun. As part of the sponsorship, at midnight a 10-minute fireworks display will open with one minute of pyrotechnics in LG's colors -- red and white.

Many cities' New Year's Eve celebrations attract sponsors. Waterford Wedgwood of Ireland supplies the crystal ball that drops in New York's Times Square. But advertising is seldom incorporated directly into major fireworks displays, even as subtly as London plans.

LG's signature colors, red and white, will feature in London's fireworks. Last year's display is shown above.

LG's name won't appear in the sky because the company doesn't want to be "crude or crass," says Mark Boyd, a creative director at LG's London-based ad agency, BBH, which is part of Publicis Groupe.

Instead, London officials have agreed that LG can place its logo, a robot-like face forming the letters LG, on hundreds of temporary signs directing people to the event. LG also will be allowed to beam its logo on to the side of a prominent building overlooking the Thames for most of the evening. And contractors will give away thousands of LG-branded hats.

LG executives hope that many revellers will see LG logos as they arrive and connect the red and white fireworks with LG's colors. "New Year's is a time of optimism," says Andrew Warner, LG's marketing director for the U.K. and Ireland. "It all flows back to LG's Life is Good [slogan]."

Mr. Warner and a spokeswoman for London's municipal administration, known as the Greater London Authority, declined to say how much LG is spending on the event.

The company, which makes cellphones, TVs, washing machines and other appliances, may struggle to get a big payback from the fireworks. One problem: there is room for only 180,000 people in viewing areas set aside for the fireworks, according to the London mayor's Web site, limiting the audience to a small fraction of what LG could get through a TV ad.

The entire fireworks display will be shown on TV, but the broadcaster is the state-owned British Broadcasting Corp., which doesn't accept ads and doesn't plan to acknowledge LG's sponsorship, according to a BBC spokeswoman.

To reach more people, BBH plans to make a short film of the fireworks and post it on dozens of Web sites early on the morning of Jan. 1, including Google's YouTube.com, according to BBH's Mr. Boyd. It also will distribute video clips to media outlets around the world, hoping they will include the LG component of the fireworks in news bulletins.

Since hiring BBH last year, LG has increasingly experimented with unconventional advertising to increase its profile. Earlier this year it invited 500 people to the launch in Hollywood of what it said was a new TV show. The event was actually a stunt to promote a new line of televisions.

London has been trying to find a New Year's Eve sponsor for three years, says Harriet McDonald, the head of sponsorship for the Greater London Authority. London officials wanted the advertising to be unobtrusive to avoid offending the public, while marketers were looking for as much prominence as possible.

Another problem: because city officials didn't want the crowds to get too big, they wouldn't allow a sponsor to market the event in advance. London has never sold sponsorship of the fireworks before, although advertisers have sponsored free train travel on the night in the past, a spokesman for the authority says.

This year, several potential sponsors from the finance industry pulled out because of the credit crunch, Ms. McDonald says, before LG signed up in October. London chose LG because the company had ideas to improve the evening, such as projecting welcome messages from celebrities, including actor Michael Caine, on to the side of a building.

"It's not a great big logo jamboree," Ms. McDonald says. "They [LG] have not taken the stance: 'I want to see my logo in as many places as possible.'"