Monday, July 28, 2008

Singer Chris Brown's Product Placement

[B]y the time the new jingle came out, it was already seeded properly within popular culture.

-Steve Stoute, chief executive of Translation Advertising

In Ethan Smith and Julie Jargon, "Chew on This: Hit Song Is a Gum Jingle," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2008

Stoute is a former senior executive at Interscope Records. He is now the chief executive of Translation Advertising, which is a unit of Interpublic, the agency holding company. One of Stout's goals for Translation is to use music to support the aims of clients. In 2003, for example, he hired Justin Timberlake to write and record a song for McDonald's that expressed its "Im Lovin It" theme. The Timberlake song, though, was never released as a recording. In 2007, as part of a promotion for the Wrigley gum company, Stout engineered a new wrinkle. He enlisted R&B singer Chris Brown to write a melody that could also be used as a jingle for the client Doublemint gum ( the favorite Wrigley gum among African Americans). He asked to write lyrics for a recorded version of the song and the jingle.

Jive Records released the recording in 2007, and it became a top-ten hit. Only the phrase "double your pleasure, double your fun" would have given away the connection to Doublemint; that was its longtime slogan. Nevertheless, Translation and Wrigley kept quiet about the connection between the song and the gum. As Stout suggest, they wanted the song to become part of the target audience's life. Then, when new gum commercial echoed the song with new lyrics, the commercials would reinforce the song and the song would reinforce the commercial. A few record company executives seemed concerned that the song was created for advertisers without telling the audience. But they said they went ahead with its release because "the song was so potent and strong. That overruled us being maybe a little hesitant."

Translation and Wrigley undoubtedly see this as a triumph of a new form of product placement. In an where recording artists are industry struggling to find new ways to make money from their songs, and where marketers are struggling to find ways to get target audiences to connect emtionally with their brands, it is not hard to predict that we will see attempts to copy and extend what Chris Brown and Translation have done.

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