Last April, before Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" soared to the top of the charts, RadioShack was ahead of the game. The retailer produced a TV ad inspired by the song's video -- featuring Thicke and his models -- to promote the new Pills speaker from Beats by Dr. Dre. The fact that the RadioShack spot preceded the success of the track, and possibly contributed to it, was of note. More noteworthy was that the electronics and mobile retailer had never partnered with a musical act in a significant way before.
Now, RadioShack's doing it again.
This month, the retailer will launch a campaign featuring DJ Steve Aoki, Lil Jon and reggaetón duo Alexis & Fido to promote Sol Republic and Motorola's new DECK wireless speakers. Also showing up in the spot is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
"It's our second such partnership, but it's something you'll see more from us," RadioShack chief marketing officer Jennifer Warren says.
Warren is part of a new executive management team that has been at the company for roughly six months under new CEO Joe Magnacca, who has publicly said he's going to "rebuild" the nearly 100-year-old company, which has more than 4,000 stores nationwide.
The campaign already seems to be paying off for the struggling retailer, as second-quarter same-store sales grew by 1.3%, according to the public company's financial results. RadioShack's shares are up some 50% since the start of the year. But while its emphasis has changed to feature more music, the retailer is expected to remain a modest spender in the ad marketplace this year, with a 2013 ad budget of $88 million in measured media, according to Kantar Media.
That includes a deeper focus on music and music products. The "Blurred Lines" campaign, for example, wasn't designed to launch Pills, but rather, to bring attention to the fact that RadioShack carries such products. The reaction was so good that it opened the door to more campaigns.
In late August, RadioShack launched another Beats by Dr. Dre spot, this one featuring 2 Chainz. And the latest Beats ad that debuted during MTV's Video Music Awards features Thicke's new song, "Give It 2 U." The DECK campaign, with its three artists and three songs, plus one celebrity spokesman, is more ambitious. But as with Beats, the thrust was the product, a speaker based on a "Heist" mode of technology that allows up to five people to pair simultaneously and take turns controlling the music.
The product was developed by Sol Republic and Motorola, and after Sol Republic demonstrated it for RadioShack executives, they were hooked.
Lil Jon, Aoki and Phelps were already part of Sol Republic's "Saviors of Sound" group who endorse the company's products. It was RadioShack that suggested adding a Latin act to the mix to reach that important demographic. Mayna Nevarez, CEO of Nevarez Communications, a public relations and marketing firm in Miami, suggested several clients whose music and appeal were compatible with Lil Jon's, including Alexis & Fido. The Puerto Rican duo, whose most recent single "Rompe la Cintura" topped Billboard's Latin Rhythm Airplay chart for eight weeks, had just completed its deal with Sony and were about to independently release a new single, "Alocate."
"When they approached us, we didn't give it a second thought," says Fido (real name Joel Martinez). "We understand the power this can have and that it will take us to markets that don't know our music." The ad begins with Alexis & Fido playing "Alocate" on the DECK. Then Lil Jon switches to his still-unreleased track, titled "Turn Down For What," which automatically turns the crowd into Lil Jon lookalikes. Phelps does his part with Peter Roberts' "Second to None" and then the spot ends with Aoki's "Boneless."