Ogilvy & Mather’s Music Marketing Panel Discusses Artists’ Roles As Creative Directors

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By: Vibe / April 24, 2013

The stage was set at the packed Ogilvy & Mather Theatre in New York City Tuesday (Apr. 23) as five marketing heavyweights in the music industry discusses why musicians turn creative directors and what it means for their brands.

Panelists included Michael Freeman (Music Producer & Lead, Ogilvy & Mather NY), Chris Jennings (CEO, Chief Strategist, thntck. Corporation), Calle Sjoenell (Chief Creative Office, Ogilvy & Mather NY), Jeannette Perez (VP, Music for Brands, Advertising & Licensing, Sony Music Entertainment), and Russ Jones (VP, Promotions & Lifestyle Marketing, RCA Music Group) as moderator Karla Ballard (SVP Sr. Partner of the Impact Studio, Ogilvy & Mather) provided in-depth questions.

The recent addition of creative director to the résumés of Justin Timberlake (Bud Light Platinum) and Alicia Keys (Blackberry) sparked a dialogue on artists wearing different hats and how it impacts the role’s responsibility.

“A person who sets the vision or gives some guidelines by which an organization, or a project, or a campaign can be executed in excellence so the outcome can be met for the particular brand,” said Jennings on his definition of a creative director. The CEO of thntck expressed that “you have to know how to use a celebrity instead of giving them the title of creative director.”

Other panelists in the record industry say they have taken a different approach to artists turned CDs.

“I have a problem when celebrities become creative director of something they’re really not good at,” said Sjoenell to a room full of laughter. The CCO said brands should avoid bringing on artists in this capacity unless they have a great purpose.

Perez added that brands are “really looking for someone who has extended the vision in his/her career to something else. You’re aligning yourself with somebody’s access.

“Bud Light Platinum may not have been able to reach certain artists and certain field executives before,” the VP for Music for Brands, Advertising & Licensing said. “Now they’re able to by having Justin Timberlake walk through the door.”

A blend between brand ambassador and creative director is created once an artist assumes the latter role, Ogilvy’s Freeman explained to the audience but said it’s important for those companies to set the guidelines and direction in the first meeting.

The panel discussion switched gears when audience members asked questions. The topic of Rick Ross’ business divorce with Reebok stemming from the response to his “U.O.N.E.O” lyrics ignited the debate.

“I think it’s important for the brands to do their due diligence and find out what this artist represents, what their music is like, what their image is and then make your decision and your risk management from there if you want to potentially employ that person to represent your product,” Jones said. “I’m no music historian but I know Rick Ross’ brand and music and what he brings to the table and I know that he doesn’t necessarily have a wicked jump shot or can run three miles in five minutes so I don’t know what the connection is with Reebok and who he is, and who his base is and what they want from him.”

To avoid a risk management call-to-order, Perez said open communication is one of the keys to a successful partnership with musicians and brands.

“The brand’s perspective and their objective is to find a way to meet their outcome of selling products to be able to build the brand and to be able to touch consumers,” Jennings said. “There are people that define culture and those who are defined by culture.”