Media-savvy artists aren't shying away from product placements. Instead, they are working with brands to push back the boundaries of creativity online.May 07, 2012
If you have ever seen a video by OK Go, then you know you are in for a ride when you watch Needing/Getting on YouTube. The American alternative rock four-piece have bagged awards and racked up millions of hits online with their highly choreographed, low-budget promos.
Needing/Getting, from OK Go's Of the Blue Colour of the Sky album, is no exception. It features the band driving along a desert track at just the right speed for their car to hit regularly spaced musical instruments in time with the beat. With this video, however, there is a twist.
Along with the musicians, a prominent star of the clip is a specially adapted Chevy Sonic. But what at first glance appears to be another artist sellout is actually something more akin to true collaboration, and one that is becoming increasingly commonplace.
In the case of Needing/Getting, OK Go singer Damian Kulash came up with the concept and pitched it to several carmakers. The band had previously worked with State Farm Insurance on This Too Shall Pass and Samsung on Last Leaf. And they are not alone in this type of tie-up.
Black Eyed Peas front man Will.i.am, for example, has collaborated with Salesforce.com in the creation of a cartoon series. Mötley Crüe has appeared in a Kia ad. And mainstream artists from Kylie Minogue to Lady Gaga now routinely include big-name brands in their videos.
One of the major factors driving this trend is the rise of online video. As more and more people share and recommend clips from their favorite artists, the potential market that a brand can reach by collaborating with the artist is growing exponentially.
At the same time, savvy marketers are getting more comfortable with ceding creative control to the artists in order to ensure that the viral potential of any collaboration is maximized. Needing/Getting, which premiered at the Super Bowl, is a case in point.
Chevrolet put up the money (and cars) needed for the video to be made, but benefited from OK Go's massive online popularity to garner 10 million YouTube views within a week.
"I think both bands and internationally recognized brands see the opportunity to get into each other's networks," says Calin Yablonski, an online marketing agency chief and former drummer with Canadian indie rock band the Nix Dicksons who runs a music marketing advice website.
On one hand, he notes: "The music industry has changed substantially over even the last five years. Album sales are definitely down. It is all going digital. Something like licensing is a huge opportunity for bands to make money. At the end of the day, artists have to sell their art."
On the other, brands are also facing upheaval. "Traditional advertising is on a steep decline and so brands are having to become more creative in how they are marketing themselves," says Yablonski. "Social media has been a huge opportunity to connect with their key demographics."
Given this situation, Yablonski believes the scene is set for increasing collaboration between artists and commercial interests. "I definitely think that video is going to continue, over 2012 and even into 2013, to be the most popular medium for bands and brands to connect," he says.
But what of the potential pitfalls: brands meddling with artistic freedom or artists tarnishing a corporate image? The diversity arising from today's networked world largely covers them off, says Yablonski.
"There is always going to be a struggle between maintaining the artist's integrity and maintaining the brand's integrity," he says.
"But there are literally thousands of bands and hundreds of thousands of brands, so there is always an opportunity for a band or a brand to find another that is going to work well with their demographic."
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