Can music videos funded by brands be cool?

Brands like Levi’s have always paid great attention to the music in their ads, and we have got used to product placements in music videos. But the creation of actual music videos and other bespoke pieces of content, paid for by brands rather than record companies, is quite new. With both the music and the ad business suffering, brands are now playing the role of pop-culture patrons. There is actually a rich heritage of patronage of arts (Faris Yakob has written about it) - it has always been a way to bolster reputation – but patronage of pop music is quite new.

There is a good discussion over on Hyper’s blog about the Doritos-funded video by UK rapper Professor Green. I quite like the 360 video they made, but the link with the product is tenuous, and I can’t imagine that many people will pay any attention to the Doritos ads on the side; They might as well have just paid for a banner placement.

There was also the recent Fiat Faithless music video, which at least incorporated the car into the band’s video. It got good coverage in the press as a “promercial” (NB I hope to never write that word again). It ended up feeling like any another car ad though, and was even shown during ad breaks just like traditional ads.

We made a short-film / music video called Dragonfly Love for the Nokia N8 with the band Kap Bambino:

We had the luxury of shooting with the product itself, which freed us up to not do too many product references. In our case, it was part HD device showcase, part bonkers entertainment.

It is increasingly difficult to make any money out of selling music, so it will be interesting whether more bands and artists look for an advertiser to pay for their videos. Of course artists don’t want their art to be compromised. Some people were highly critical of Faithless for selling out so completely to a brand for example. But as Jay-Z put it: “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man!”.

Brands will continue to pay for original, high-quality content and musicians will continue to look for new ways to finance their work, so the question becomes: is it cool? Is having a brand pay for your music video a step too far in terms of selling-out? Are brands assisting and supporting creativity, or stifling and ultimately inhibiting it?

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8 thoughts on “Can music videos funded by brands be cool?

  1. Janne says:

    A good example of a cool, sponsored video is OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass.

    Ok Go’s label (EMI) was not willing to pay for the possibility to embed band’s youtube videos, so State Farm Insurance paid an undisclosed sum to make it happen. Win-Win. Or at least win for the band.

    More here: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/brandnewday/archives/2010/03/ok_go_state_far.html

  2. Paul Eaton says:

    Thanks, I enjoyed your post.

    Is it cool?
    IMO, it’s more about the final product, target audience and context. For example, take the DragonFly Love video.
    Given the right context, it can be cool. It was ‘cool’ to watch on your blog, after reading that the entire video was shot with the Nokia N8. That captured my attention and distracted for me the fact that the story was not that compelling nor the music my taste. I might also have appreciated the video in the context of ‘Vimeo’ where the artistic nature of the story could be appreciated and discussed. Perhaps it would also encourage others to create their own N8 short films and discuss techniques, tips, tricks. Insert N8 Producers, Vimeo NokiaHD links here. :) Conversely, if I saw this video on MTV, I’d wonder where the band is and flick channels.

    Is it selling out?
    Doesn’t have to be. Perhaps the biggest risk involved is if both brand and band try to hide the arrangement. That is NOT cool.
    Sometimes a product placement in a video could be so blatent that it actually could make it cool. Let’s take the Jay-Z comment: “I’m a business, man!”
    Now picture the video clip… it’s all about the bling… club scene… cool people partying Jay-Z style.
    They all just happen to have Nokia N8′s, texting, filming each other, etc. Jay-Z’s doing his thing, surrounded by bling… and then cut to him or one of his close companions being handed a GIANT cheque with the NOKIA logo clearly visable. Oh and did I mention there is a rain shower of money falling from the sky at the same time.

    A final example: Did Nokia pay for this? If not, why not? Why not make more… just waiting for it to show up on MTV here in Finland. (http://www.youtube.com/kristiinawheeler)

    Thanks

    Paul

  3. dagood says:

    Hi Paul,

    Great comments. Glad to see that you are following our marketing so closely ;)

    I think you totally got this, but just to confirm that The Dragonfly Love video was made primarily for Vimeo, to encourage and inspire the type of film-makers who would appreciate the techniques and qualities of the director’s treatment.

    p.s wasn’t sure what your question in your final paragraph was about: Jay-Z, Dragonfly Love, Kristiina Wheeler?

    p.p.s. Kristiina is a close friend of mine :)

  4. dagood says:

    read your blog post and got your question now. Nokia didn’t pay for Kristiina’s video – as far as i know – but the director of the video (Jussi Solja) used to work with us here at Nokia so i think it was a bit of an experiment to get people talking a bit more. FYI I have seen this video on TV already, on a music channel called The Voice :)

  5. Paul Eaton says:

    Thanks for the reply and read.

    Keeping a close eye helps my aim when pitching ;)
    Given the context of Vimeo, “Dragonfly Love” nailed it!

    Watching ‘The Voice’ now. :)

  6. Carrie Lowe says:

    Thanks, I enjoyed your post. Is it cool? IMO, it’s more about the final product, target audience and context. For example, take the DragonFly Love video. Given the right context, it can be cool. It was ‘cool’ to watch on your blog, after reading that the entire video was shot with the Nokia N8. That captured my attention and distracted for me the fact that the story was not that compelling nor the music my taste. I might also have appreciated the video in the context of ‘Vimeo’ where the artistic nature of the story could be appreciated and discussed. Perhaps it would also encourage others to create their own N8 short films and discuss techniques, tips, tricks. Insert N8 Producers, Vimeo NokiaHD links here. :) Conversely, if I saw this video on MTV, I’d wonder where the band is and flick channels. Is it selling out? Doesn’t have to be. Perhaps the biggest risk involved is if both brand and band try to hide the arrangement. That is NOT cool. Sometimes a product placement in a video could be so blatent that it actually could make it cool. Let’s take the Jay-Z comment: “I’m a business, man!” Now picture the video clip… it’s all about the bling… club scene… cool people partying Jay-Z style. They all just happen to have Nokia N8′s, texting, filming each other, etc. Jay-Z’s doing his thing, surrounded by bling… and then cut to him or one of his close companions being handed a GIANT cheque with the NOKIA logo clearly visable. Oh and did I mention there is a rain shower of money falling from the sky at the same time. A final example: Did Nokia pay for this? If not, why not? Why not make more… just waiting for it to show up on MTV here in Finland. (http://www.youtube.com/kristiinawheeler) Thanks Paul

  7. dagood says:

    Dear so-called “Carrie Lowe”

    That is a new form of spam I haven’t encountered before. I wonder how effective it will be to just copy a previous comment and hope someone clicks on your name link. Surely there are more effective ways to drive traffic?!

  8. Paul Eaton says:

    Ha.. yes I thought the same thing. At first I thought I was being quoted ! Interesting form of spam indeed. Got my click…. but then failed to actually hit me with an ad, or any content whatsoever. Interesting strategy.

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