Atlantic's Camille Hackney Talks Warner Music's Global Brand Partnerships Council, Bruno And Olympics (Q&A)

January 30: Halftime performer Bruno Mars speaks at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show Press Conference at Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Camille Hackney has already had a very busy 2014. As exec VP-brand partnerships and commercial licensing at Atlantic Records, she’s been the first point of contact for brands and artists at events like CES, the Grammys and this past weekend’s Super Bowl, where the label’s Bruno Mars cemented his superstar status during the Pepsi Half Time Show (the most-watched ever, according to Nielsen).

And as head of Warner Music Group’s recently established global brand partnerships council, Hackney has even more time zones to keep up with as she coordinates efforts for brands and labels across the company’s labels--– including Parlophone, which will be a frontline label in all territories outside the U.S.

Brand partnerships and commercial synchs become increasingly crucial to artists’ exposure and labels’ bottom line -- and a rapidly growing area at that. Licensing revenues for recorded music totaled $78 million in WMG’s just-announced fiscal first quarter, ending December 31, up from $60 million during the same period in 2012, while synchronization revenues for music publishing grew from $22 million during the quarter in 20-12 to $28 million in 2013.

On the eve of the next big tentpole, the Winter Olympics on NBC, Hackney recently spoke with Billboard about the logistics of Warner’s new council, future opportunities for Bruno Mars, and the importance of planning ahead.

What precipitated the formation of WMG’s brand partnerships council?
As we have become even more of a global company we felt like it was time to coordinate our global efforts with brands. Brands are looking for more of a global positioning, or music that’s at least multi-territory. And we’ve found that in order to better serve not only our artists, but our brand partners, we needed to come together with a structure, as opposed to having one person that oversees global. We realize every territory’s different -- not only the artists’ repertoire, but how the brands market in that territory. Each key territory has a full-time brand partnerships person or someone who does double duty -- whether it’s marketing, product management or synchs. It’s really a council that will coordinate all of those territories to make sure we’re maximizing all the best opportunities for our artists. Whether it’s myself, or Lori Feldman [at Warner Bros. Records] or Bettina Dorn [of Warner Music Central Europe] in Germany or our team in France, we can go into local offices in each territory and talk about global solutions. We could walk into a brand’s office and say, “We’re looking for something in SouthEast Asia, can you direct them to our counterparts there?” The goal is to create a forum, not a shortcut to one person.

The council first started taking shape in mid-2012. Any examples of deals that have already come out of it?
We first started working with Coca-Cola when they did a Christmas campaign last year with our artist Lauriana Mae. Knowing how Coca-Cola is structured [in different markets], we needed to make sure we were structured similarly to amplify that brand globally. Warner Bros. did something similar with Michael Buble and with a MasterCard and amplified it with a flyaway trip to Atlantic City. We were also able to coordinate more globally with Icona Pop and their deals with Samsung and Absolut. We work real closely with BMW, and that’s becoming more of a multi-territory coordination.

Brands’ planning patterns vary wildly from labels, as corporations need to plan a year in advance, and labels sometimes don’t have much purview beyond six months in terms of upcoming releases. How do you bridge that gap?
We have frequent conversations with our brand and agency partners, knowing that timing is always an issue when brands are planning campaigns 12 to 18 months out. In some instances, we’re actually working on Christmas for next year with some of our brand partners. Knowing that that typically can be an impediment to getting deals done, we like to be there early and be aggressive about having those conversations and trying to forecast what releases we might have coming up. We also try to encourage our brand partners to be more flexible. We’ve done a really good job in convincing many brand that having a music marketing strategy is the way to go. They’ve created discretionary budgets so that when great music videos come up, they’re able to tap in to them. It’s about having different conversations, knowing how record companies typically work.

And how do you work with the label’s artists, to make them more available for potential brand work?
More often than in the past, we’ve started meeting with management early. In particular case with Chromeo, we started meeting over six months ago and their album isn’t coming until later in 2014. That’s not a rare example -- more and more artists are continuing to have a conversation with me and my department about brand partnerships, even when they are off-cycle to give us a sense of what the artist is thinking or what partnerships they want to look at. More and more mangers understand that brands work when we know the music is ready. So it’s about making sure we’re having those conversations throughout the span of their cycle.

Any categories of brands you see going big in 2014?
Categories? Beverages have always been there, and you’re seeing more and more coming in line and aligning with music. Auto is a hot category right now. And I think beauty we’ll see more activity. We’ve already seen it with Cover Girl and how they’ve leaned into music. And spirits, too -- it’s a category that’s always benefitted from product placement in music videos, but their use of music overall has continued to grow in the last three to four years. Technology has always been there, so they’ve been there now.

January was a very busy month for the music industry. Was it productive for you and your artists, too?
It started for us at CES, which I find is becoming this whole new mecca for brand executives looking to either explore new ways to marry tech with their brand or entertainment their brand. So a lot of my meetings out there actually weren’t with tech companies but with brands. We were also able to create more intimate experiences for our brand and agency partners out there, as part of this event called Girls’ Lounge. We recognized that conferences like Cannes Lions and CES and Advertising Week are very male-dominated. So we at Atlantic partnered with a research company called Ipsos and this wonderfully woman Shelley Zalis, who throws this Girls’ Lounge as a haven for women at these male-dominated conferences. We took over a suite at the Encore and hosted a performance by one of our new artists, Meg Myers for brand and media buyers at CES. We’d done something similar at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, where we had Christina Perri perform for a room of curated brand executives. The Grammys we were a bit light on this year, but at our after-party we brought in Heineken as a sponsor there. And I had about 20 meetings with brand and agency folks who came out for the show.

And then with Super Bowl, we of course had Bruno during Half Time and lots of back and forth with Pepsi and Hyundai as they use Bruno music for their campaigns. It’s really been all about Bruno and the NFL. And right after that comes South By Southwest -- I had to skip MIDEM this year because there was too much going on. Since I have a global role, there’s a few other MIDEM-like conferences I’m looking to broaden our reach and have a better picture of the global landscape. There’s one in Shanghai called Music China. And then Winter Music Conference -- we just flew in all our global A&R heads of dance music talking about what the landscape of brand partnerships for dance music artists will look.

Bruno Mars officially scored the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show of all time this past weekend. Has that exposure already had a halo effect on brands who might want to work with him?
He’s a constant topic, and we’ve had many approach us. But he’s very selective, and he doesn’t want to do anything with a brand that would not be genuine to who he is.

Warner will globally distribute new releases from the Parlophone roster, including Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Damon Albarn, Lily Allen and others. How has that integration started to impact your day-to-day?
It’s an acquisition in that we got these great artists, but we’ve also picked up a really awesome brand partnerships team that we work really closely with. My mornings typically start with responding to emails that come from the UK team.

The Olympics kick off this weekend from Sochi, on NBC. What opportunities were available for your artists this year?
Olympics is a real challenge because Sony is the Olympic partner, so a lot of the on-the-ground artists performing there are taken up by the Sony folks. We did have some conversations with brands, and we’ll probably take a bigger role in summer for 2016 and definitely Brazil in 2018.