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ESPN Acts as Toshiba's Agency

ESPN Toshiba

From Ad Age:

“To help sell Toshiba TV sets and laptops, ESPN worked with the Japanese company to create advertising that illustrates specifically how ESPN fans could use those products…. a greater number of marketers have discovered, it helps to have the media outlet that brings viewers to the screen — whether it be TV, computer or mobile — helping to craft the message. Indeed, while Toshiba in the past has relied more on ads that are somewhat serious in tone, working with ESPN resulted in commercials that take a humorous approach, mostly because the audience seeing the pitches reacts well to that sort of execution.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone knows an audience as well as the content creators at the TV networks, web publishers or magazines that attract and engage with those audiences every day. As more publishers help advertisers learn to speak the native languages of their audiences, it turns up the heat on agencies, who have historically played this role, as well as smaller publishers, who don’t have the scale to convince marketers that it’s worth the extra work to build a custom solution.

Marketing Cafes for Japanese Women Who Want to Sample Stuff

Menu from Japanese Marketing Cafes

From Springwise:

“Now, the original Sample Lab has reopened as one-of-a-kind marketing cafe targeting Japanese women in their 20s and 30s with free samples in exchange for their visits and views, in a relaxed and informal setting….

“To take part, women register by mobile phone, supplying basic details about themselves such as their age, marital status and where they live. With every order of food or drinks, they receive an L Coin, which can be redeemed for free samples at the cafe’s sample bar.”

In addition to skincare products and new drinks, Toshiba used the marketing cafe to do some experiential marketing for its Biblio e-reader tablet.

Toshiba Satellite Fusion Banners Let You Star In Your Own Ad Campaign

Toshiba’s banner ads for its Satellite Fusion laptops invite everyday citizens to picture themselves behind the keyboard of a Fusion, literally.

Toshiba Invitation

When you visit Toshiba’s site to snap your photo, you’re prompted to email Toshiba’s ad-starring-you to your friends. Here’s my ad:

Toshiba Ad Starring Chas

Here’s a montage of my FM colleagues pretending to be models (lifted from FM’s blog):

And the next time you see a Toshiba Satellite Fusion banner, you’re likely to see yourself right in the banner, like this:

Toshiba Ad Starring Liam

From the press release:

“Irvine, CA (July 9, 2008) — Toshiba’s Digital Products Division (DPD) and Young & Rubicam Brands, are set to launch a new ‘Take My Picture’ advertising campaign. ‘This campaign is pioneering a new phase in interactive advertising by auto-detecting a webcam on the user’s PC and allowing them to place their own picture into the ad.’ said Aron North, Young and Rubicam Brands…. The campaign continues Toshiba’s rich history of innovation, with over 12,800 patents in the last 10 years. As the inventor of the laptop, Toshiba looks to reinforce its history of innovation through proprietary technological advances and innovative ways of showcasing them.”

Toshiba's Notebook Experts Site: Broad Utility In A Banner

Ed Cotton at Influx Branding does a perfect job explaining Toshiba’s latest campaign with FM: Banners that invite notebook users to get tech questions answered, right there in the banner ads. Ed, forgive me for republishing your entire post (bold type added by me)!

Toshiba Notebook Experts Banner

“Federated Media has spent some time educating the ad industry on the power and potential of blogs and their authors.

“Recently, they’ve been developing content that goes beyond the banner and utilizes their blog network. An interesting example of this is a recent campaign for Toshiba laptops that’s been running on the FM Network, sites like Boing Boing.

“It’s a simple banner that allows you to ask a laptop question and get a reponse from experts or the community in general. The linkage to the brand’s positioning is through the notion of ‘experts’, Toshiba being the laptop experts.

“Browse around the site and you will find answers to all kinds of laptop questions and importantly, they don’t all ‘plug’ Toshiba laptops.

“It’s an interesting idea and a good example of going beyond the banner to create a branded utility.

“My only criticism of the idea is about its uniqueness. The problem for Toshiba is the web is awash with tips and advice for laptop owners or prospects, it’s a hard area to ‘own’.

“However, the idea of link ad content to expert content is a really smart one and it’s just a matter of time before someone does something amazingly creative and useful by linking the two together.”

Ask A Ninja: The Money Is Good

Ninja on

In an interview with, Ask A Ninja’s Kent Nichols threatens to kill, but I’m assuming that’s just Ninja humor. Meanwhile, TV Week reports that the Ninjas are doing well financially:

“Near the top of the pile [of digital video programmers] sit Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine, who have parlayed their ‘Ask a Ninja’ Web program into about $100,000 a month in ad revenue and income from merchandising and licensing….. Mr. Nichols and Mr. Sarine, the ‘Ask a Ninja’ duo, learned all about the threshold between Web video as an avocation and a vocation.

“They started their ‘weekly-ish’ Web show two years ago with about $60,000 from friends and family. Since then, they’ve generated 70 million views on YouTube, and other sites. They managed to live on that income, supplementing it with occasional odd jobs. About a year ago, they decided to focus on wringing money from their Web popularity.

“‘You can’t take views to the bank. You need a concrete plan to turn those views into money,’ Mr. Nichols said.”

“So they paired up with video-sharing site Revver, which splits ad revenue 50-50 with content creators, and earned between $40,000 and $50,000 in an eight-month period.

“The pair then signed a deal with Federated Media, which now sells ads for the show. In the last year, the number of ‘Ask a Ninja’ views has jumped from 2 million to 2.7 million per month.

“‘That pays the bills,’ Mr. Nichols said. ‘Advertisers now have a credible way to reach the target demo of young men who have abandoned TV, and we are providing a concrete way to get into those kids’ brains.’

“Companies including SanDisk, Palm, Doritos and Toshiba have signed on as sponsors.”

(FM manages advertising and sponsorships for Ask A Ninja, but FM does not disclose revenue figures for any of its partners.)

OhGizmo's David Ponce Reports to Having Fun with Toshiba Campaign

At OhGizmo, author David Ponce says it’s “sort of fun” participating in Toshiba’s Tech Battle Royale sponsorship:

“Each week, the question is read by the ninja from Ask A Ninja and readers get to vote on their favorite answer. I’ll tell you, it’s sort of fun to be battling it out with these guys, even if in the end it doesn’t make much difference who wins. See, whoever leads in the votes doesn’t really get anything special. Only bragging rights, I guess. But this is where I ask all y’all to help me out a little and send a couple votes my way. I’m currently 4th in the rankings, a whisper ahead of Mark Frauenfelder from BoingBoing.”

He also makes clear the terms of his relationship to Toshiba (brokered by us at FM):

“And for the record no one asked me to write this post, and I don’t get paid to write the answers. Toshiba (the sponsor) is running ads on this site (you might have seen them around) and that’s the only form of compensation in this campaign.”

It surprised me to see Fazal Magid in the comments write this:

“It looks like a reprise of the slimy Microsoft ad campaign (see link) that made waves some time ago. You would do well to disassociate yourself from FM, they have no clue what the limits of the acceptable are. That reminds me, I need to add “Federated Media” to the list of keywords to filter out in my aggregator…”

As I wrote in response to Fazal on the site: The sponsorship relationship with Toshiba is quite transparent from the start, and David’s post takes that transparency even further. The program doesn’t affect any editorial content on OhGizmo, and — as far as I can tell — doesn’t sway the editorial voice at OhGizmo. Is your objection just to the idea that authors can acknowledge advertisers on their editorial pages? Or that an author’s content can be licensed for us on a marketer’s site or advertorial project?

Conversational Marketing's Battle Royale

A few months ago, the marketing crew at Toshiba and their agency, nFusion, showed us some of their print ads built around the word innovation

. The concept isn’t innovation as in “our batteries last 4% longer,” but rather innovation as aspiration, as a dream for the future.

How could that message play out as conversational marketing, they asked? How could we spark a genuine conversation among people who care deeply about technology — famous gadget bloggers and ordinary geek citizens — that would inspire Toshiba’s product development teams (and the rest of us) to think big? And when they asked those questions, they also told us something that made all the difference: We’re not joking; we want innovative thinking and we’re willing to take the necessary risks.

Tech Battle Royale So we invited the Ninja (of Ask A Ninja) to emcee a Tech Battle Royale — the site launched last week — among a handful of gadget gurus, industrial-design visionaries and do-it-yourselfers who like to build their own dream gadgets from spare parts. As part of Toshiba’s sponsorship, the Ninja throws down a new gauntlet each week — he poses a question in the post-roll sponsorship segment of his video program. The first two questions: “What technology from TV, movies or books would you most like to see become a reality?” and “How can we better use technology to preserve the environment?” A handful of FM authors submit answers on the Tech Battle Royale site, sponsored by Toshiba, where visitors can vote for their favorites or submit their own suggestions.

Simple but smart. Here’s why.

While Toshiba underwrites the conversation and its brand benefits from association with it, they leave the content of the conversation to outside thought leaders. They’re not trying to spark a conversation about the comfortable feel on your fingertips of Toshiba keyboards, but rather to create a place for gear lovers to share hopes and dreams about a better world through tech. By keeping it authentic and vendor-neutral, Toshiba attracts voices from well beyond the core authors — more than 200 visitors unaffiliated with the sponsorship program submitted entries in the first week, and more than 1000 weighed in with votes.

Second, since the conversation is built around content by participating authors — their own content with their names next to it — and visitors to the site can vote for their favorites, the competitive juices start to flow. Deane Barker at Gadetopia wants his readers to vote for his ideas, so he blogs about the contest with a tongue-in-cheek hard sell: “I’ll make it easy for you: my answer is always best. Go vote for me.” Not to be outdone, the team at UberGizmo links to the Tech Battle Royale contest at the top of their homepage. And surprise, surprise — UberGizmo won the first week’s battle.


To be clear, the terms of Toshiba’s sponsorship include banner ads and an agreement to answer questions the Ninja poses — Toshiba doesn’t attempt to buy influence over any editorial content or pay for links on any of the participating sites. With campaigns like this, FM recommends that authors disclose the sponsorship details to their readers for the sake of full transparency. The extra efforts by Gadgetopia, UberGizmo and others are added-value bonuses, done by participating authors because they are genuinely having fun with the concept. Fun that turns into web momentum.

One participating author, Eric Wilhelm of Instructables, asks his readers directly for help answering the questions. Here’s the question from week one, and here’s week two. Sixty-five Instructables readers contribute ideas to the first and 77 do for the second. And wait a second, is this cheating?! Instructables is posting in advance three more questions (here, here, and here) and already 89, 23 and 14 suggestions have been submitted, respectively. What does Toshiba get out of a conversation on Instructables they had a hand in starting? A core group of the Instructables community is spending serious time on a page that, per Eric’s disclosure at the top of the page, calls out Toshiba. Several comments then talk about the Tech Battle Royale site itself, which drives additional visitors to the contest, including a few who go back to Instructables to say they’ve voted for one of the ideas born of the Instructables conversation. In other words, Toshiba’s marketing conversation spreads onto the pages of Instructables. Meanwhile, Eric does something right by involving his readers — he’s riding high in 4th place!


Another participating author, perhaps to drive more votes to his or her entry, submits the contest to Digg, though the Digg link appears to benefit all contestants equally. In the process, Toshiba’s Tech Battelle Royale makes its way onto Digg organically. If instead Toshiba staffers tried to plug their own marketing campaign, they’d risk an unsavory backlash on the pages of Digg.

And, finally, the campaign makes its way into the online press. Robert Seidman picks it up on August 27:

“Sometimes I think my brain is so well trained to ignore marketing (it’s not perfect, I do have an iPhone) that my eyes don’t even notice it. There are definitely a couple of FM Campaigns that I’d put in the conversational marketing realm. One is very, very well done in terms of doing something new and that’s the FM: Tech Battle Royale (brought to you by Toshiba). It’s true three-way conversational marketing and I’d like to learn how the campaign fared someday.”

Robert, stay tuned!

(Note: The creative thinking by the FM team was led by Lester Lee.)