Last week, a friend of mine, an astute and well-respected member of the social media marketing community, asked on Twitter: "Who do you think the best marketer is out there, hands down?" My immediate answer was, "Jay-Z." Now, when "the best rapper alive" talks about selling product by the OZ he's talking about Budweiser, not snow flakes.
It seems fitting that Jay-Z, who famously said of himself, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man," would be opening Brooklyn's new Barclay's Center -- where the team he partially owns, the Brooklyn Nets, will play -- at the same time as Advertising Week. The connection between music and advertising may be as old as, well, advertising, but the days of rock and roll being the best way to "connect with the kids" are long gone. What was the turning point? I believe we hit a cultural singularity in 1986 thanks to the mainstream emergence of Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A. and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Now, nearly 25 years later Ice Cube & Will Smith remain cultural icons. Or maybe the rock and roll/advertising industrial complex ended when vegetarian knob-twiddler Moby licensed every track on his 1999 album, Play.
Regardless, the truth is that right now popular culture is driven by hip hop culture. Today's youth don't dream of being the next Slash, they dream of being the next Kanye West or Diplo. Even Advertising Week has finally seen the light, adding a DJ division to the annual Battle of the Bands competition. The Advertising Week official Opening Night concert featured Busta Rhymes and Funkmaster Flex, while Wednesday night sees Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly headline.
In a recent Media Bistro interview, Steve Stoute, CEO of agency Translation, was asked about the current relationship between Hip Hop and advertising. His response: "I think advertising is the Hip Hop business." I couldn't agree more. In my mind, the Black Eyed Peas aren't a band, they are a marketing agency that makes music for brands to license, and they are quite successful at it.
So, where do agencies go from here when it comes to connecting with consumers through music? I was recently talking executives from In The Groove, a shop that creates audio signatures for brands and that seems to me to be an open territory. Intel and T-Mobile are two brands that probably come most readily to mind as brands that have unique audio signatures, but you have to think it's only a matter of time before some smart brand approaches Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne or Pharrell Williams to create their unique brand audio identity.
It was interesting that during the Republican National Convention, VP candidate Paul Ryan attempted to claim his youthful bona fides by announcing that his iPod was filled with AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Bands that peaked when Ryan was probably watching Sesame Street. Perhaps a more chronologically relevant act would have been Wu-Tang Clan or Public Enemy. I'm the same age as Ryan, and those were the acts I grew up listening to during my formative years living in a very white suburb in Los Angeles.
I think we're going to see fewer ads featuring Motown hits or Prog Rock guitar chords in the future and, personally, I can't wait to see retirement investment funds using A Tribe Called Quest or Tupac as the soundtrack to their :30 second spots. That's the music that a generation now in their forties grew up with. Another 10-15 years and we may just see it.
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