- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) “Scarlet” may look like a new TV show and act like a new TV show — but it’s no new TV show.

Despite mounting a big-budget advertising campaign and building some online buzz, the seemingly real TV series starring model-actress Natassia Malthe is not a new TV series, but rather a new series of slimmer-than-slim LCD flat-screen TVs from LG Electronics.

When it came time to pitch its new Scarlet line of flat-screens, LG opted coyly to present 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 campaign, conceived by LG global brand marketing Vice President Kwan-Sup Lee and a team of advertising and marketing agencies, features Miss 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,” Mr. Lee says. “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 including Paris, Los Angeles and Singapore about a month ago, and commercials and online ads began appearing on sites including 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 movielike trailer.

LG officially announced what Scarlet was at a ritzy invite-only Hollywood party held at the Pacific Design Center on Monday night. The company won’t say how much it has spent on the global campaign, although Mr. Alessi confirms it was millions more than a typical product launch in the U.S.

The movielike online trailer for Scarlet, which was shot in Bangkok, sees Miss 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 usually are reserved to publicize entertainment properties, such as 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 efforts to figure out exactly what was being sold in the Scarlet campaign. Shampoo? Clothes? Cameras? Some folks figured out the big secret, but others remained in the dark.

“Looks like it could be a good series,” one YouTube user posted.

“This feels fake to me,” someone else wrote.

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

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