If brands and their creative agencies agree, in full or in part, about the breadth of the cultural influence and the social value of music, they need to make a long-term commitment to developing a “music strategy,” according to Steve Yanovsky, music and emerging media strategy consultant at Mindshare, a unit of GroupM, a media investment management firm. This involves product placement, tour sponsorships, licensing a song for a TV spot, product integration in a music video, artist endorsements—all the tactical components that may be used as a marketing mix for a brand. Yanovsky, who has worked on a variety of brand/music tie-ins, with the latest example being the New Moon soundtrack, chatted with Brandweek about the importance of such deals. Through music strategy, he said, brands can create “music equity,” which is “really the long-term idea in utilizing music as a framework for their marketing.” Excerpts of that conversation are below:
Brandweek: You’ve worked with many brands over the years. What were some of your most memorable projects and why?
Steve Yanovsky: Two come to mind immediately, ESPN X Games and Heineken Red Star Sounds. These projects are most memorable because I helped establish music as a core component of their creative, content, programming as well as establishing as part of the marketing mix for both brands.
For Heineken, I launched the Heineken Red Star Sounds music initiative. The idea was to use music to help create greater relevance for the brand with African Americans. The message, ‘Music Can Make A Difference’, focused on supporting music education in Urban neighborhoods. We set up a non-profit entity, The Heineken Foundation, as the conduit for awareness and donation. What was notable was the absence of any product messaging. The Heineken Foundation was merely tagged at the end of each spot to demonstrate Heineken’s investment in music education. The entire campaign was supported with TV (BET, MTV, VH1, UPN), Radio, Print (VIBE, Rolling Stone), OOH and online. According to Heineken, there was a lift in case sales in mainly Urban markets. Heineken Red Star Sounds continues to be part of their messaging platform for their multi-cultural marketing.
BW: Most marketers turn to the big screen and TV shows for product placement. What about music tie-ins? How valuable are they?
SY: It’s ironic that one of the highest rated shows in the history of television is a show about music. There is no disputing the social aspect and commercial impact of blockbuster films such as New Moon or hit TV franchises such as American Idol. As with music, they are also vastly communal and can be deeply personal. But, they are finite platforms. Unlike Film and TV, music is neither confined by space, time, season nor location. It is completely portable, addressable and measurable. And although music can be passive and active, engagement with it is mostly unrestrained, both to the conscious and the subconscious. Lady Gaga wears several pairs of sunglasses in her new video Bad Romance, including a pair of Carrera White Champion. Yes, a music video is screen facing and all of three minutes. An aspiring female fashionista will watch it dozens and dozens of times. After reading this month’s feature pictorial in Elle magazine just prior to walking into Macy’s, she hears the song. Does it remind her of those sunglasses she wanted buy? It is one possible scenario that moves Carrera to the top of their consideration set at the height of purchase intent. Surely, this is the outcome Carrera hoped for in the first place.
This reflects the importance of music in what I call the “thrivecycle”—where consumers live, thrive and buy. If connecting on an emotional level is central to consumer engagement, then music offers a multitude of paths to accomplish this.
BW: Moving into more specifics, you’ve done some work with the ‘New Moon’ soundtrack. Can you explain what it involved and which brands participated?
SY: I got a call from Atlantic Records about online media sponsorships and ad inventory around the re-launch of their content channels on YouTube. Because Atlantic was the label partner for Twilight Saga soundtracks, one idea that we came up with was an exclusive online sponsorship of the New Moon soundtrack. This would include ownership of all 15-second pre-roll, companion ads, bumpers and rich media across all the official/proper New Moon soundtrack music videos on YouTube including a co-branded New Moon Soundtrack Channel as well as the New Moon Soundtrack Website. For the most part, this would be the first online media sponsorship executed under the new WMG/YouTube deal.
With a core 12-24 female target, it’s no surprise that Unilever’s Dove was extremely interested to participate. With the massive search and discovery taking place online for New Moon, it seemed opportunistic to begin just after the film’s opening weekend. We would launch it from the world video premiere of, “Possibility”, written and performed by Atlantic’s new artist Lykke Li. “Possibility” was considered the most pivotal song in the film. However, creative and logistical challenges with the Lykke Li video delayed its debut. Instead, the video for “Solar Midnite” from Grammy Award winning artist Lupe Fiasco took its place. Since the song was only available on iTunes digitally as part of the iTunes-Deluxe version of the New Moon Soundtrack album. With Lupe’s enormous fanbase, we would be able to amplify its push beyond core Twilight/New Moon fans and reach Urban lifestyle-centric audiences.
BW: How do you measure the success of this type of partnership?
SY: For the most part, this was a fairly straightforward online media sponsorship. From a reach standpoint, my expectation is that it will deliver what is required for the Dove program.
BW: Can you give other examples of the most recent brand/music tie-ins you’ve worked on?
SY: For Trojan (yes, the condom company), I have been producing both long and/or short-form video content with as part of a dedicated online campaign to address the issues around condom use—ranging from embarrassment to disease prevention. As a compliment to its ongoing partnership with MTV Networks, Trojan tasked both its agencies and media partners to create humorous and thought provoking PSA-like videos. Working with their media agency, Maxus Global, my approach was to collaborate with recording artists who already have an existing circle of trust with their peer and fan communities. They know how to engage them more effectively than any brand, rather than disruptively, over the long term. Both hugely successful major label acts as well as indie artists delivered some of the most compelling content for the entire program including pieces by Cobra Starship, All American Rejects, Ryan Star, Good Old War and April Smith.
BW: Do you have any advice for marketers that are looking into product placement to build brand awareness? What should they strive for and what should they avoid?
SY: Regardless of time on screen, brands should be most concerned with context and relevance. It’s no secret that marketers should opt into placements where their brand can be integrated into the storyline. In addition to insuring contextual relevance, securing IP rights connected to the placement that can be used in or part of collateral material, messaging and/or activation should be factored into the financials. Film lends itself to this. Depending on the depth of integration within a music video, master and sync rights to the associated song for radio and/or online promotions should be baked into any deal. In most cases, additional fees for sync and master rights for a song should not be cost prohibitive. Record label marketing budgets pale in comparison to what brands spend; they are more eager today to leverage a brand’s media commitment to broaden artist exposure than merely asking for a check for a license or product placement.
I am often surprised as to how frequently brands and their agencies do not opt to secure these rights. Unconditional adherence to existing creative is often the culprit. It is counter intuitive for a brand to integrate their product in an artist environment, but shun the artist association in the brand environment. Marketers need to strive toward consistency in their commitments to be in these environments. Consumers are smarter than we give them credit for. Over time, you will garner attention and impact your relevance and relationship to your audience.
BW: Do you see these types of brand-soundtrack partnerships as a rising trend?
SY: I do not recognize this as a trend. For the right project, the connection to a soundtrack is a way to take advantage of the amplified marketing efforts around a film and garner the emotional equity connected to it. At the same time, some studios use the soundtrack as a way of extending their promotion of the film prior to its theatrical release. Fewer studios and labels are producing soundtrack albums because they are not as financially lucrative as they once were. For the Twilight Saga, since music is such a significant part of the franchise DNA, Stephanie Mayer and Summit were going to release a soundtrack album. Neither Atlantic Records nor Summit had any idea that it would sell over 3.4 million copies worldwide. For New Moon, Atlantic offered a number opportunities to tie-in with the film including events, listening parties, artist performances, etc. around the music from the soundtrack. I was surprised that more brands did not take advantage of them.
One trend that is beginning to rear its head is non-endemic brands partnering directly with artists, providing them with a potentially massive, exclusive distribution channel. Over the past year or two, this form of disintermediation has been a focus for Live Nation. But it’s best exemplified by Target’s exclusive distribution deal with Pearl Jam and their latest album, Backspacer. For Pearl Jam, it has been a way to underwrite their marketing costs while utilizing the marketing muscle and national footprint of Target. For Target, it has been a self-liquidating marketing initiative.
BW: Do you have any final advice/takeaway you’d like to provide?
SY: Music is both content and media. If we characterize consumer engagement as the sum total of the number of daily impressions plus the total amount of content consumption, then music offers the largest array of consumer-facing touch points (reach) than any other category and is by far, the most consumed entertainment content today. This includes all daily interactions that consumers directly or incidentally have with music—all physical and digital music sold. It is every other format that music exists within or is engaged, including both entertainment and advertising. If attention is the biggest cost in marketing, then all of these are potential attention silos. If done collectively over time, it can help create the emotional equity to build trust with consumers, which is still the most valuable connection a brand can make.