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When is a TV show not a TV show? When it's a deceptive ad campaign

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TV Scarlet.jpg
Actress Natassia Malthe as "Scarlet" speaks with director David Nutter on the set for "Scarlet," LG Electronics' marketing campaign for their new flatscreen TV. (AP)

‘‘Scarlet’’ may look like a new TV show and act like a new TV show — but it’s no new TV show.

When it came time to pitch its new series of slimmer-than-slim LCD flatscreen TVs, LG Electronics opted to coyly offer ‘‘Scarlet’’ as ‘‘a new TV series’’ from director David Nutter, whose credits include ‘‘The Sopranos,’’ ‘‘Smallville’’ and ‘‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,’’ instead of pointing out screen size and pixel resolution to potential buyers.

The big-budget advertising campaign, conceived by LG global brand marketing vice president Kwan-Sup Lee and a team of advertising and marketing agencies, stars model-actress Natassia Malthe as the sexed-up, butt-kicking, red-eyed heroine ‘‘Scarlet.’’ There’s no mention of LG — or even a prominent image of the TV itself — in the advertising materials or commercials.

‘‘To be honest, the most difficult thing for me on this campaign was to convince myself and my bosses to really own this idea,’’ says Lee. ‘‘To spend money without letting people know about our brand is really, really risky, right? But that’s the idea of this. We need a breakthrough idea to change the rules of the game.’’

Risky, sure. Isn’t it also just plain sneaky?

‘‘We’re obviously trying to fool people, but it’s done in a fun and engaging sort of way,’’ says Tim Alessi, LG director of product development and advertising.

Billboards for ‘‘Scarlet’’ began popping up in cities like Paris, Los Angeles and Singapore about a month ago while commercials and online ads began appearing on sites like Gawker, Variety and E! Online as early as two weeks ago. They all led viewers to ScarletSeries.tv, a site that features a high-impact movie-like trailer.

LG officially announced Scarlet’s identity at a ritzy invitation-only Hollywood party attended by celebs such as Lindsay Lohan, Milo Ventimiglia, Paris Hilton and Tila Tequila at the Pacific Design Center on Monday night. The company won’t say how much it has spent on the global campaign, although Alessi confirms it was millions more than a typical product launch in the U.S.

The movie-like online trailer for ‘‘Scarlet,’’ which was shot in Bangkok, sees Malthe strutting down a red carpet, performing martial arts moves and walking away from an exploding building. ‘‘I’m gonna put her in every home in the planet,’’ a suited guy foreshadows. At the end of the clip, an announcer teases, ‘‘Things aren’t always what they seem.’’

It’s not the first time marketers have used online subterfuge for promotional purposes. However, such tricky tactics are usually reserved to publicize entertainment properties such as actual TV shows (‘‘Lost’’) and movies (‘‘Cloverfield’’) rather than products available on store shelves.

The nontraditional campaign hasn’t exactly ignited ‘‘Scarlet’’ fever online. With no mention of a TV network in the ads, Internet rumblings quickly turned to trying to figure out exactly what was being sold in the ‘‘Scarlet’’ campaign. Shampoo? Clothes? Cameras? Some folks figured out the big secret, while others remained in the dark.

‘‘Looks like it could be a good series,’’ one YouTube user posted.

‘‘This feels fake to me,’’ wrote someone else.

‘‘I think that’s terrible to trick people to sell something,’’ said someone on Yahoo! Answers.


AP

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on April 29, 2008 10:50 AM.

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