Sorry, Video Music Awards. Nice try, Super Bowl. This year's Grammy Awards turned out to be the biggest destination for music marketing in recent memory, with brands shelling out an estimated $30 million on music-related advertising during the three-and-a-half hour telecast.
According to Billboard's tally, more than 30% of the 115 ads that aired during the ceremony featured music in some capacity--14% of which were musicians who appeared on-camera. Those ranged from Pepsi pitch people Beyonce, Hunter Hayes and "X Factor" winner Tate Stevens to Target's spots for Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and P!nk to CoverGirl's musical faces Nervo, Janelle Monae and (again) P!nk--not to mention a second Timberlake branding spot, his first ad for Bud Light Platinum. No wonder several marketing experts were accusing brands of "newsjacking" the ceremony--Target's Timberlake campaign was one of the most talked-about commercials of the night, accounting for the bulk of the 67,000 tweets that occurred in the minute after it aired alone, according to minute-by-minute Twitter data supplied to Billboard.
Why the groundswell of activity? For one thing, the Grammys have value. Ads for this year's telecast sold for an average of $850,000 per 30-second spot and ran as high as $900,000, according to four executives who spoke with Billboard. While that's a hefty, near-seven-figure fee for some brands, it's still half of what marketers paid to be in last year's Academy Awards and less than 25% of what advertisers shelled out for this year's Super Bowl. The 2012 Grammys were also the second-most-watched telecast (according to Nielsen) and most-tweeted event of the year (according to Twitter), thanks to the last-minute tribute to Whitney Houston and the post-vocal-surgery performance by Adele. Even without those key factors, this year's telecast was the second most-watched since 1993 (28 million viewers) and yielded more than 14 million Grammy-related mentions on Twitter alone. That means lots of engaged viewers who are perhaps even more likely to talk about new ads than any other TV event.
"When you have a crowd that really appreciates music and pop culture, which somebody who's watching the Grammys does, that's a great place for our brand," says Molly Peck, director of advertising and sales promotion at Chevrolet, a brand that strategically sat out the Super Bowl for the first time in years in order to debut a new tag line ("Find New Roads") in this year's Grammys. "From the onset we have an open audience and they're receptive. It's a great place to reach a large audience in one place with the ratings. We had tremendous engagement offline, too."
Pepsi adopted a similar strategy for its advertising, opting to place "X Factor" season-two winner Stevens in a Grammy commercial instead of the Super Bowl, as it did with season-one winner Melanie Amaro. "To really amplify the prize for our winner, we realized it wasn't really about sports--it should be on music's biggest night," says Bozoma Saint John, director of music and entertainment marketing at PepsiCo Americas Beverages. "When the whole world is watching for music, it could introduce him to an even larger audience of potential fans. Tate was so fantastic on the set and appreciative of the opportunity--it feels good to be part of that story."
Pepsi also relied on its sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show to repurpose custom footage for a separate spot previewing its support of Beyonce's Mrs. Carter World Tour, driving viewers to Pepsi.com the next morning for exclusive tickets. Traffic to Pepsi.com increased by 1,000% in the 24 hours following the Grammy broadcast, time spent on the site nearly doubled to 2:53, and Pepsi quadrupled enrollment for its Pepsi Experience Points rewards program. A third spot, featuring country singer Hayes, helped thread together Pepsi's weeklong on-air support of the best new artist category through custom promos that aired on CBS in the days leading up to the broadcast. "The formula was Pepsi opening with music, providing content in the middle and closing with the Hunter Hayes spot so that it would all feel like one large campaign together," Saint John says.
Then there was Target's formidable presence. From premiering spots for its spring style collection and new line with designer Prabal Gurung, to re-airing custom spots with P!nk and Swift to promote the sale of their exclusive deluxe albums for $10, to its surprise spot with Timberlake, Target was perhaps the most visible brand of the evening and the most buzzed-about, to boot. "Target strives to be on trend, on time," says Anne Stanchfield, the retailer's divisional merchandise manager of music. "We look for unexpected ways to connect with our guests, so we were excited to unveil our partnership with Justin through the commercial and social media buzz before and after his performance."
It was an exceptionally hot marketplace for synchs, too. Warner/Chappell reported an impressive 10 songs placed in commercials throughout the night, exceeding the seven it booked for the previous week's Super Bowl. Three of those came from Chevy's "Find New Roads" branding spot, which showcased four different vehicles and four different songs: Patty Griffin's "Heavenly Day," Jimmy Luxury & the Tommy Rome Orchestra's "Cha Cha Cha," Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and Theophilus London's "All Around the World." (London was also featured in a cameo in the spot.)
"The Grammys were good, but I thought the commercials were almost better," says Dave Pettigrew, senior VP of strategic marketing and head of advertising and videogames at Warner/Chappell. "To go from the performances on the Grammys to all these ads with artists, it looked like music videos. There was very limited copy--the ads really let the music speak for what it was. It was really nice to see the synergy between artists and brands working together."