Change of tune over cross-media tie-ups

Music and film giants, eager to recoup costs spent making pop stars and films, are tuning into the benefits of cross-media brand tie-ups.

The Devil is considered to have all the best tunes and it can certainly be a hellish business negotiating with rights owners to get that perfect piece of music for an advertising campaign.

However, many of the record companies have now been absorbed into much bigger multimedia entertainment giants that are fast waking up to the fact they need to exploit the commercial potential of all their assets. Making films or developing a music artist costs millions of pounds of investment. To help defray the cost of marketing a movie or breaking an artist, it makes sense for the global giants to seek tie-ups with high-profile brands.

Warner Music UK, part of the huge AOL Time Warner empire, is the latest company seeking to make itself approachable and flexible. It has just set up an entertainment marketing consultancy and says that it will have access to the film, Internet and publishing arms of its parent. First fruits of this initiative will be a promotional tie-up with Boots for a Lynx Deodorant Christmas gift pack featuring an exclusive five dance track CD.

Warner Strategic Marketing business development manager for special projects Rob Hanlon says he is busy making contact with the different strands of the AOL Time Warner group, such as Warner Bros and AOL UK. “This is a standalone initiative for music, but we want to be able to expand slightly, just as entertainment is expanding – the youth market which is into music is also into games and films.”

The creation of a UK department follows on the back of “The Big Bag” McDonald’s promotion, which included a CD featuring the Suga Babes and Bardot.

In a sense, Warner Music is playing catch-up. While its approach to integrated marketing propositions is fairly well developed in the US and Canada, the Warner Music international territories have been slow to follow. The impetus has come from the recent appointment of Roger Ames as president of the Warner Music Group Worldwide. Ames is former president worldwide for PolyGram, where he was a very keen advocate of marketing departments seeking integrated tie-ups with brands.

Consultant Gary Richards, who helped set up the Warner Music section and has 20 years of licensing experience at PolyGram, now part of Universal says: “It’s a change of culture and philosophy from the very top.”

“We are talking brand language [to the clients] and transforming the opportunity and excitement of music into realistic and doable deals.”

Other entertainment giants, such as Vivendi Universal, are further along the path of offering fully integrated multimedia packages. Universal Studios has just signed a three-year global marketing deal with Toyota to help push its products, including the new Matrix sport wagon and the Camry model. Toyota will get exposure in high-profile Hollywood movies while the car company will sponsor Universal products such as cable programmes and theme park rides. The deal will also undoubtedly provide for Toyota to use tracks from Universal Music’s repertoire for its ads.

In the UK, Universal Music has been geared up for licensing for some time. Steve Levy, head of Universal film and TV licensing, says: “We are seeking out new areas in which to place Universal artists.” His last deal saw The Jam’s That’s Entertainment used for an Adidas commercial.

Likewise at EMI Publishing, Steve Hill, creative licensing manager in the film, TV and media department, says pro-activity is now paramount and adds: “We can all sit there with the catalogue and expect a phone call or we can send out CDs and have meetings with agencies and see what they are working on.”

Toyota director of marketing for Europe Andy Pfeifferberger agrees that wide-ranging deals with entertainment companies are going to increase, but adds: “It will depend on how easy it is for someone to take ownership within the [entertainment] corporation and take the reins of cross media deals.”

Sponsorship and promotional tie-ups with brands are being given a lot more weight by the film divisions of the big corporations, says Edward Sharp, a consultant for movie sponsorship deals.

“Rather than being snotty about commercial money they very, very desperately need it,” he says. He points out that there are more films made and released than ever before and they are all striving for a competitive edge.

“As a result I think that everyone is much more open and savvy about working with brands – right up to the producers in Hollywood,” he adds.

Like any other market sector he says that the entertainment companies are looking to exploit their scale and points to the Vivendi Universal package.

He adds that being offered an integrated package of music and movie ideas has a strong appeal for ad agencies because they then have a creative springboard for their client. “It is becoming increasingly tough for ad agencies to deliver the big creative ideas that clients request of them.” He says that this is due to the ever increasing squeeze on both profit margins and the time for development of a concept.

The sea change has also been detected by agencies such as Rick Blaskey’s specialist the Music & Media Partnership. He says: “I think the record companies are becoming more amenable to talking deals.”

These factors will surely see entertainment conglomerates and brands dancing to the same tune in the near future.

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