Canon Focuses On Off-Court Sharapova In Third Leg Of Campaign

Canon U.S.A. is launching its third installment of an ad campaign that features tennis star Maria Sharapova as spokesperson. The effort, for PowerShot SD750 ELPH digital camera includes TV, print, and interactive campaign, with two TV spots breaking before the French Open.

The campaign, via New York-based Dentsu America, also highlights a new camera technology that is able to distinguish when a target is a face, human or otherwise, and adjust accordingly.

The two new 15-second spots show Sharapova using the camera to shoot pictures of her Pomeranian dog using the Genuine Canon Face Detection Technology that automatically adjusts focus, exposure and flash for up to nine faces.

The ads show Maria chasing her dog around a tennis court, her house and her pool with her camera. As the pooch responds to her commands to "smile" and "roll over," he talks back--via voiceover--in a Spanish accent with retorts like "A little snap-happy with the new camera, no?" and, "You think you own me? Oh, wait, you do own me."

Technically, the dog in the ad isn't her dog, though she owns a Pomeranian. And the Miami estate in the ad, per a spokesperson, isn't hers but a manse formerly owned by Cher.

The ads launch today on a collection of high-profile national television outlets. The commercials are scheduled to air on the season finales of "24"and "American Idol," as well as during the NBA Finals and on a variety of the highest-rated cable networks.

Print ads will hit newsstands in early June in "Entertainment Weekly," "People" and "Wired." Interactive ads will appear on consumer web sites beginning in June.

Michelle Fernandez, manager of camera marketing in Canon's consumer imaging group, says Sharapova was chosen because she "embodies the characteristics of PowerShot, and the stylish aspect of the product, as well as the substance aspect."

Lake Success, N.Y.-based Canon began using her in ads in late 2004, launching the tag, "Make every shot a Power Shot," and showing her in a tennis stadium spelling her name on a fence with tennis balls by serving them into the chain links, then taking a picture with a Canon Power Shot an instant before the fence collapses from the force of her serves.

Doug Fidoten, president of Dentsu America, Inc., says when the effort first launched, Sharapova was an emerging star. "She had just come on the scene with Wimbledon, and we got involved shortly after that," he says. "Though she was known in tennis circles, we saw a tremendous rising star; Canon Powers hot was becoming number one and we saw a perfect connection."

In the second year, notes Fidoten, the Sharapova ad started on the tennis court. She finishes her practice and walks through the streets of Miami, with tennis balls following her with her camera, leading to a moment in which they form a smiling face and she snaps a shot.

"Since then," says Fernandez, "we have been really looking to her as a good spokesperson who enjoys photography, now that we have established the brand."

The new campaign is, in fact, the first for the PowerShot brand that features Sharapova in a domestic scene.

Fernandez says the market, dominated by PowerShot, is maturing. "There's a split between newcomers and those returning to purchase another Power Shot; 55 percent are return buyers, people who are coming back after two and a half years. Maria appeals to a wide range of demographics, male and female, and she serves as a mentor to GenY and also to baby boomers."

"This year," says Fidoten, "we wanted the story to focus on her off the court; to focus on her and the joy of photography." He says Sharapova is also a bona fide shutterbug.

"She's a tremendously interesting personality, and she has a web site with a photo blog and we knew about this--when I first met her, before she became a spokesperson for Canon, she talked about how she was always cataloguing events in her life as she traveled."

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