Just three days after releasing her anticipated sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Nicki Minaj took over Times Square Friday night for a live performance and remix of current single "Starships." The event was hosted by Nokia in support of the launch of its new Lumia 900 smartphone, which hits retail on Monday.
Looking to capitalize on the buzz it built at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as well a series of ads starring "Saturday Night Live" alum Chris Parnell, Nokia and its wireless partner AT&T are also aiming to top a similar promo stunt last November at London's Millbank Tower featuring Deadmau5. A viral video in which the DJ "lit up" a whole side of the tower while debuting exclusive remixes has logged over 3.5 million views, while Nokia is hoping that a clip from Friday's event with Minaj will log in excess of 10 million views based on social-media buzz and a P.R. video-seeding campaign.
"We're really looking to create a theatrical piece of film," Valerie Buckingham, Nokia's U.S. marketing director, told Billboard.biz. Partnering with Minaj the week of her album's release also created a "perfect storm" in terms of timing, she added. "One of the things we really like about her is having a unique American voice for Nokia and being culturally relevant in an emotional way. We're looking for the artists to help celebrate our launch but also to make a statement."
Although Buckingham could not comment on Nokia's long-term plans to work with Minaj, the rapper-singer is nevertheless getting quite popular among marketers. As Billboard reported last month, Minaj is prepping a global endorsement deal for Pepsi in a campaign now set to break in early May, according to executives familiar with the program, tentatively featuring her single "Moment For Life." She also counts Mattel, MAC Cosmetics and O.P.I. nail polish among her other brand partners.
Still, the first-of-its-kind Times Square event should garner some much-needed attention for Nokia as the troubled company preps its most pivotal product launch. "I think when you look at this event and the scale and the ambition and the awesomeness of this event, this is what Nokia needs now," Buckingham says.