Universal Music and WPP planning to launch joint venture
LONDON - WPP Group and Universal Music are to unveil a 50-50 joint venture that will team up client brands of the advertising giant with the record label's artists.
According to The Times, the venture could also involve brand sponsorship of music events and will give WPP access to Universal artists, who include Elton John, Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones, as well as more modern acts such as the Scissor Sisters and singer/songwriter James Morrison. It is expected to be unveiled today.
In the UK, Universal Music has a 20-year relationship with MediaCom, one of WPP's media agencies. Earlier this month, MediaCom scooped the £21m Universal Pictures account. The joint venture with Universal Music will be run through Group M, WPP's combined media unit.
Some advertising agencies already have divisions that are dedicated to matching ad scripts with the perfect soundtrack, such as Huge Music, based at WCRS, or TBWA\Stream.
But the deal with Universal and WPP is reported to be far more wide-ranging, and could even mean well-known bands creating music especially for ad campaigns.
As far back as the 1970s, when Coca-Cola's 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing' jingle became a hit around the world, advertising and popular music have been bedfellows.
However, it was not until the release of Moby's 'Play' album in 1999, in which every track was licensed to appear in one or more advertising campaigns, that record labels really woke up to the commercial benefits of getting their artists featured in advertising.
Bands to have seen their songs become hits after featuring in ads include The Dandy Warhols, whose 'Bohemian Like You' was used by Vodafone, while the Sony Bravia "balls" ad made a hit of Jose Gonzalez' 'Heartbeats'. Marlena Shaw, whose 1969 classic 'California Soul' was used in a KFC ad, has even been heard to introduce the tune at gigs as "that fried chicken song".
More recently, Bob Dylan has signed a wide-ranging deal with Apple, in which he promotes its iTunes service while iTunes pushes his new album, 'Modern Times'.
Even with the one-time counter-cultural demi-god Dylan doing ads, there are still artists who view it as selling out.
Franz Ferdinand reportedly turned down £25m to allow one of their tracks to be used in an unnamed ad campaign. Noel Gallagher has also been critical of fellow rock star Jack White, who penned a jingle for a Coca-Cola spot earlier this year.
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