Toshiba takes on town names in UGC push

To promote its new model of laptops, Toshiba went hyperlocal to two American towns: Normal, IL, and Boring, OR.

In the “Normal vs. Boring” campaign, the computer maker took its first dive into user-generated content. Participating residents from each town report on how they use the new Toshiba laptop in videos uploaded to social network MySpace. Viewers of the online videos can vote on the campaign to answer the question of which town’s name represents the bigger misnomer.

“Normally with a marketing campaign we do a lot of telling about what our products can do,” said Terry Cronin, VP of marketing for Toshiba. “It’s one thing when Toshiba tells you about a product; it’s another thing when you get a chance to see it live by someone who is disconnected from that marketing function.”

Toshiba has upped its online advertising spend in the past year, Cronin said. This includes some previous online video campaigns.

“Normal vs. Boring” was done in partnership with Young & Rubicam Brands’ Southern California office.

“We wanted to demonstrate the advances Toshiba has made for real people, and what better way to do that than to talk to ordinary Americans,” explained Anthony DiBiase, executive creative director at Y&R Southern California. “We believe ordinary Americans can get very creative, and what better place to do that in Boring, OR and Normal, IL.”

A total of 11 participants were selected from the two towns to document their use of Toshiba laptops in whatever way they use them. Participants were not selected based on particular demographics, but rather their potential to deliver an interesting, engaging story. Users range from a fireman to someone nicknamed “The Punk Rock Punker” to a woman referred to as “The Ghost Lady,” who will take video of her ghost hunts.

“The point is to follow a certain number of people around from each town, give them each a Toshiba laptop, and see what they come up with,” says Dibiase.

An edited video detailing the week’s events in each city will be uploaded to MySpace each Monday between the campaign’s launch on July 27 and deadline of August 31. Visitors can vote on which video is the most exciting. In addition, each participant has their own page to which they can upload user-created content and create a unique profile. Voting ends September 13 and the winning town will be announced September 14. The winner will receive $15,000 toward upgrading their school district’s technology.

The campaign also includes an event marketing push. A one-day festival in each town serves to promote the effort through word-of-mouth. Festivals are sponsored by Viacom brands MTV, Comedy Central, Spike TV, Atom Films and Game Trailers. Normal’s was held August 8; Boring’s was held August 15.

Online ads showcased the competition between the cities, especially on MySpace, and press outreaches in both cities publicized the campaign. Toshiba’s PR firm, Access, was involved in the outreach portion of the effort.

“You’ve got to find ways to customize your messaging and programs to really be relevant and interesting to the people you’re trying to reach,” Cronin continued.

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