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e-Briefing | Ad Test

Somba's Not That Cute

November 16, 2000

* The ad: Philips Electronics implies that its new television, the Somba, is so cute with its accent lighting and retro-looking clock that it's more adorable than a puppy.

* The setting: A sweet-faced puppy with a red bow around his neck is carefully placed in the middle of an apartment by a young man. The song "Puppy Love" plays in the background. Suddenly, the door opens and there stands the girlfriend, home from work. She puts down her briefcase, exclaims, "It's adorable!" and then walks right past the puppy to the Somba TV on a table in the background. She turns on the TV and laughs in delight. The announcer says, "Philips Somba, a 13-inch TV you can love."

* The test: We brought a Somba (suggested price: $249) and Earl, a curly-haired pound puppy of indeterminate ancestry, into a photo studio. They were placed side by side on a table. We led six colleagues into the studio, one by one, without telling them they were part of a test to see if they would go for the high-design Somba or sad-eyed Earl.

"Too cute!" said the first reporter, heading straight for Earl and gathering him up in her arms. As Earl was showering her with kisses, it was pointed out that there was also a unique-looking television on the table. "I didn't even see the TV," the reporter said, "but put a puppy up against anything and there is no way the puppy is not going to win."

The next reporter also embraced Earl but was more methodical when told of the nature of the test. "Maybe if it was an ugly dog, I would have gone for the television," he said.

In the end, Earl won the test hands--or paws--down, but the Somba did score a couple of victories. "I think this is very cool," said a researcher, going right to the TV. "I really like the design. This is one television I wouldn't mind having out in a room." As for Earl, she said, "I'm really not a dog person."

And an editor also drawn to the Somba said he feels uncomfortable around dogs even as snugly looking as Earl. "I feel all they are really doing is waiting for the chance to go for my throat," he said.

But the final word went to a copy editor who played with Earl for several minutes, scratching his ears and getting nose to nose with him. "That's pretty cool," she said, looking at the Somba. "But you can't get kisses from a TV."

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