How Adobe Uses Music’s Biggest Names to Turn Fans Into Creators

Campaigns with Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Marshmello drive results

Lady Gaga asked fans to interpret her new album, Chromatica, using Adobe's creative tools. Adobe
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Since the pandemic began in March, Adobe has engaged with established fans and customers from home through methods such as a virtual flagship conference and a remote film festival. But one marketing strategy the software company hasn’t had to pivot dramatically involves its partnerships with high-profile musicians, which the brand continues to invest in to reach a younger generation of creatives.

Adobe began partnering with musicians in 2017, tasking fans with competing in creative challenges using its products. The brand first collaborated with Imagine Dragons for “Make the Cut,” which asked fans to recut the band’s music video for “Believer” and share their creations on social. The campaign drove more than 73,000 downloads of contest assets to use in tools like video editing software Adobe Premiere Pro.

The success of the Imagine Dragons campaign led the brand to enter a multiyear partnership with Live Nation in June 2019, inviting fans to participate in the ongoing Adobe Creativity Tour.

The tour has offered creative prompts related to new music and albums by Vampire Weekend, Marshmello and, most recently, Lady Gaga in conjunction with her new album, Chromatica. Adobe also partnered with Billie Eilish for her 2019 debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, asking fans to visually express their dreams.

Adobe and Billie Eilish challenged fans to create dream interpretations of her debut album.

In conversation with Adweek, Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes broke down the brand’s strategy and objectives for the Gaga campaign and past artist partnerships, why music is a successful tactic to gain new users and drive ROI, and how the brand plans to evolve the Creativity Tour during the pandemic.

Why Adobe landed on Chromatica

For Lady Gaga x Adobe: Create Your Chromatica—Adobe’s first international challenge—the singer released a batch of visual assets tied to the dance-pop album released in May, inviting fans to design their interpretations of the album’s fictional planet setting and its songs.

From June 24-July 21, fans in North America, Europe and Japan could use creative apps like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Spark to create and share their still or animated artwork for a chance to win $10,000, a high-quality print of their work autographed by Gaga and a 12-month Adobe All-Apps Creative Cloud subscription. The project will also award nine second place winners with similar prizes.

Lewnes said in choosing Gaga—and any artist to partner with—the brand looks for someone who is relevant, willing to engage with the project and, of course, exudes creativity.

“Since Gaga became popular, she’s always pushed the envelope in terms of creativity. This album is incredibly over the top and there are all these different themes that are visually exciting,” Lewnes said. “Gaga is also a giver. She’s extremely passionate about inclusion and diversity. At this moment, she’s probably the perfect person for us to engage with.”

Music leads to results

Lewnes said Adobe’s music partnerships have led to successful engagement and ROI metrics for the brand. These are a few results she cited:

  • The Gaga campaign has drawn around 11 million engagements on social and 375 million overall site impressions.
  • The Adobe Creativity Tour reached more than 67 million in 2019 and is on pace to exceed that in 2020.
  • Adobe’s partnership with Billie Eilish delivered a 7x ROI.

“We look at how many people enter a challenge, how much creative is actually produced and how many engagements we have across social media,” she said. “But the most important metric is the incremental revenue we derive from this. Through our media attribution model, we’re able to precisely understand the actual incremental revenue derived from a specific effort.”

Star power incentives and connection

Lewnes noted music campaigns have been a successful tactic primarily for two reasons: They always offer a meaningful fan incentive and a sense of (digital) community.

Marshmello and Halsey's official fan video for "Be Kind" cut together the top 10 challenge submissions.

The winners of past campaigns have received prizes such as a physical meet-and-greet with Eilish and Marshmello’s autographed helmet. This year’s Marshmello challenge, which asked fans to create videos for the song “Be Kind” with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, also cut the winner and nine finalists’ work into an official fan video released on Marshmello’s social platforms.

Lewnes said the biggest draw for fans is they’re able to have their creative work amplified publicly.

“We showcase all the work so you can see everything that’s produced,” she said. “This is about getting your work in front of the actual artist and sharing the work so the whole community can see it. It’s a very community-oriented activity.”

Creativity Tour’s future in quarantine

Before the pandemic, Lewnes said the Creativity Tour included some live elements like onsite presences at music festivals Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). For the rest of 2020, the brand plans to hold a virtual challenge tied to the now-canceled EDC, as well as new installments tied to the Gaga and Marshmello partnerships.

As the music challenges have primarily been digital, Lewnes noted that Adobe hasn’t had to plan any drastic pivots for the remainder of the year.

“The co-creation aspect of this, which is only possible digitally, is the most compelling part of these activities,” she said. “Right now, people are starved to connect with one another. Music is something that connects everyone.” Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.