MIDEM DAY 1 – Five levels of music and brand from a man at the top

First things first, Cannes is freezing in February. Now to the music stuff.

Day one of MIDEM had quite a lot going on but the thing that was most worthy of analysis was the presentation by Olivier François, the Head of Fiat Brand, who oversees an impressive portfolio of car brands including Fiat, Chrysler and Jeep. At this point it makes sense to mention that Olivier loves his music. So with that in mind you will not be surprised to find out that places a lot of value on music and brand relationships. He works on the understanding that if a track is not perfect for an ad it is better to have silence.

To make life simpler Mr François believes there are five levels of music and brand relationships and here they are.

Level 1 – The Basic Sync. Simply find the right track and borrow it for an ad. There’s not much that I can add to this, it is what it is.

Level 2 – Co-partnering with an artist. This time you find a track for an ad and work out how to create mutual benefits from using it in a marketing campaign. The JLo and Fiat 500 ad for example. JLo got a music video and a load of free promotion for the track and Fiat got a celebrity endorsement and a track for their ad. Or how about the Lenny Kravitz and Jeep ad that worked on the same basis. This is basic but effective stuff with both parties getting a lot of added value for their respective products. The key thing is making sure the partnership makes sense, if the consumer doesn’t believe that the star would use the product then the impact is weakened.

Level 3 – Triangle between product (brand), artist and a common interest. The examples of this go beyond media platforms and expand the relationship between music and brand into physical product. Beats exclusive partnership with Chrysler and Fiat has created added value to the cars and delivered opportunities for marketing campaigns featuring Will.i.am and Dre. Or how about the Chrysler “Motown” which lead to a partnership with the Motown Broadway musical and each branded car being delivered with the best 100 Motown songs preloaded into its media player. These are both pretty tidy multi-platform partnerships which provide plenty of opportunities to add value for the brand, its music partner and the consumer.

Then there is the latest triangle featuring our old friend P.Diddy/Diddy/Puffy/Brian. The ad features Brian, his new water brand Aqua Hydrate, his new music TV station Revolt and Fiat, the soundtrack is the new Fiat brand anthem, Pharrell’s Happy. Lets pause here for a second. A brand has 30-60 seconds of your time to sell you a product and at best the audience is only giving you their partial attention so having so many brands on screen will have an impact on the effectiveness for this relationship triangle. So forgive me for thinking that the new Fiat / Brian ad may struggle on the recall front but at least it is funny now that Brian has become a pretty decent actor.

Level 4 – Music videos that feature the car. With the music industry pleading poverty Francois uses product placement as a lifeline for music videos. Car brands are constantly creating content for their various media platforms so it makes sense for them to offer up the footage to artists looking to pad out their music videos and reduce production costs. You can see how it works in the video for Pitbull’s “Sexy People” which links up nicely with the Fiat’s advertising narrative about cars travelling to the US from Italy. Product placement in music videos is very hit and miss at the moment, it is often annoyingly obvious but more frustratingly it really only seems to benefit the major artists who you could argue don’t need the cash.

Level 5 – Artist creates a cinematic track for a spot. As someone who started his career in music and brand this is where it all begins for me. There are times when a sync is not an option and a brand needs to express itself in a very individual way. Mr François’ adventure into sonic branding is best demonstrated by a Lancia spot promoting their sponsorship of the Summit for Nobel Peace Laureates, the music was composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone.

So are these five levels the model for how to use music in advertising? Well they offer a pretty good base on which to build and when you have a marketing budget as big as Mr François’ there is the ability to approach the music industry from a position of power without the need to flash the cash. Most brands will not have this muscle to flex but that does not mean they should not use these levels to find their own solution.

Before we head into day two it is worth revisiting one of Olivier François’ best music based campaigns, the award winning Eminem/Chrysler ad. Eminem is not known for his love of brand partnerships and this combined with the ad’s narrative provides the kind of authenticity that only comes along once in a while. You could argue that Eminem would never drive a Chrysler 200 but in some ways the car is secondary to the brand here. The real message here is the relationships Eminem and Chrysler have with their home, Detroit.

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