What Is Musicbed and Why Did It Create Hypertargeted Out-of-Home Posters Calling Out Creatives?

Messages to head honchos at W+K, Grey, 360i and more

Gerry Graf is one of a number of creatives Musicbed targeted. Courtesy of Musicbed
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

If you’re a creative director at an agency you might tune out ads more than the average person—even if the copy is incredibly clever. At least, that was the thinking behind Musicbed’s hypertargeted out-of-home campaign which uses billboards, subway posters and windows to send messages to top creatives like Barton F. Graf’s Gerry Graf, 360i executive creative director Frank Cartagena and Wieden + Kennedy creative director Caleb Jensen, among others.

Musicbed, a Fort Worth, Texas-based music licensing company that represents independent artists, wanted to make a splash by spending $500,000 on a digital and out-of-home campaign, deemed “Make Them Listen,” calling out creatives by name to, well, make sure they would notice it.

“We’re working in the advertising space,” said Daniel McCarthy, founder and CEO at Musicbed. “We license music to a lot of advertisers. These are the busiest people, the most creative people on the planet, so it kind of became a conversation of, how in the world do you get their attention? They’re advertisers, so they’ve seen everything.”

McCarthy continued: “Advertisers have the largest BS meters. They live in their own little world. It’s a weird little group. How the hell do you tap into this?”

Musicbed targeted a number of agencies including Grey, W+K, 360i, 72andSunny, among others. While the company already works with many of the agencies that it targeted with the campaign, McCarthy explained that Musicbed has a relationship with one creative or producer at each shop which likely has between 500 and 1200 employees. The goal of the campaign is to build awareness of the company beyond individual relationships and start a conversation with the agencies.

“We want to be known at a much more global level because we pulled this huge stunt and we put our name on the map,” said McCarthy.

In an effort to create something that would surely get noticed, Musicbed worked with former Vitro associate creative director Ryan Smith and the company’s in-house team to come up with something that would cut through the noise but each creative idea that was broad—targeting 5,000 or 20,000 creatives—felt like it was trying too hard, according to McCarthy. Instead, the company realized the best way to get noticed would be to speak directly to creatives they admired.

Musicbed did hit one snag in its campaign, which was posted around New York and Los Angeles on Monday. “The whole concept got leaked to Droga5 like two weeks ago and we got a cease and desist [letter] from Droga5,” said McCarthy. “We were like, ‘Oh shit, maybe this is a terrible idea. All of these people are going to get super pissed at us.’ [We thought] what the hell, we’ve already bought all of the media. Should we just pull the plug?’” (A representative for Droga5 declined to comment.)

The company carried on but after that experience worried that creatives wouldn’t like it. “There was a big fear for the last couple of weeks that this would blow up in our face. Like Gerry Graf would take a picture with [the poster] and a middle finger telling us to eff off. Instead, he wrote an endearing message on his Facebook page and congratulated us, which is what we were going for but there was a [moment where we thought] ‘Oh my god, how is this going to work?’ Everyone has loved it.”

Yesterday, Diet Madison Avenue, an anonymous social media entity dedicated to exposing instances of sexual harassment within the advertising industry, posted a screenshot of a message it had received about Musicbed’s campaign to its Instagram Stories calling it “tone deaf” for only calling out male creatives.

When asked about the male focus, McCarthy mentioned that the company had planned to call out female creatives but decided against it because they were worried that it would look like the company was harassing women. He also noted that Musicbed did call out female creatives in posters, like the ones it had up outside of Grey.

“As a company that presses so hard to make sure we go beyond equality, and fight for empowerment, it’s frustrating that we found ourselves in this position from our own choices,” wrote McCarthy via email. “One enlightening thing I was unaware of, was that a few of our directors and managers [who] are females saw the original concepts with females in them and both felt it was distasteful and not honoring. So I think our team felt like we should follow our internal female leadership on the topic, and not push the issue.”

McCarthy continued: “Considering the current climate in the advertising industry, we were very sensitive to potentially calling out a female creative director in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. We definitely just wanted this campaign to be a fun way to put ourselves on the map.”

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.