Producer/artist Mark Ronson was the big draw at the start of Midem’s Visionary Monday afternoon, in a joint keynote session with Coca-Cola’s SVP of integrated marketing communications and capabilities Wendy Clark. They were talking about their joint project around this year’s Olympic Games in London.
Topspin’s CEO Ian Rogers interviewed the pair. “A lot of this is coloured by the fact that there is more content than ever in the world,” said Clark. “As a brand… you have to think about other ways to engage consumers… So music has become something we are increasing our time, our investment and our focus on.”
The idea of their partnership: a fusion of music and sport, with Ronson travelling around the world to record athletes, and use the sounds of them playing their sport to make a track.
“It’s not something that I would have thought of myself, but the minute I got into it, I thought this could be amazing,” he said. So it’s all about stringing samples of grunts, swishing archery arrows, table tennis balls being hit, and so on.
“We were making up the rules as we went along, because there’s not really a precedent for this,” said Ronson. “We started to think about each athlete as almost like a member of an orchestra or a symphony.”
Clark chimed in. “The really instructive piece for brands and companies is you have an idea, then you partner with someone who is a great and masterful storyteller,” she said, stressing that the important bit is for the artist to then take the idea on and develop it further. “It’s a one plus one equals three scenario.”
How will Coca-Cola measure the success of the project? “I can tell if it works or not the minute I play it in a DJ set,” said Ronson, who is keen for the song to accurately represent his home country. “If people don’t like this song, it’s not only a wasted opportunity, it’s embarrassing… We need to have a banger!.. It’s kind of my credibility on the line, if this song is not great… Coke can move on and do something with the next great artist. But I’m screwed!”
The track will come out as a single, but there is also a documentary showing Ronson going around the world recording the sounds. Rogers asked how the internet plays into this kind of campaign.
“It changes everything,” said Clark. “We try to take advantage of the spread of content… We want everything to be shareworthy so people can pass it on… As marketers, if we don’t give content to our fans to spread, shame on us. It’s a built-in opportunity for us to do better.”
Ronson said that digital culture is making kids “much more savvy”, and thus meant brands have to get much more savvy too. He sees it as a big opportunity outside his regular recorded music career. “This gives me a platform that I would never be afforded maybe by Columbia Records for doing a song. I have to make it great, because this is maybe the biggest exposure I’ll have for a song.”
He also said he sees brand partnerships as essential for artists. “The record industry in the crisis that its in, you have to do these things. As long as the music that you make while you’re doing it is good, that’s all that matters.”
Clark said she’s keen not to feel like just a source of money for artists, rather than a partner. “If you simply look at a brand as a bank, I think you’re missing a significant opportunity,” she said, talking about wanting partnerships “much more profound than a cheque”.
Clark praised Converse as another brand that’s doing this kind of partnership well, working with Pharrell Williams, Santogold and Julian Casablancas. “It’s something that probably wouldn’t have been able to be made in the major label structure.”
Last question for Clark: what are the parallels for Coca-Cola outside music? “Film, gaming, music – the broader environment of entertainment,” she said. “It’s a long journey and we’re right at the beginning of it… A huge opportunity for brands to play a real and enduring role here in an authentic way.”