To build buzz around today's release of "The Relapse," Eminem's first album in nearly five years, Interscope Records, with Los Angeles agency Omelet and Robot Films, created a fictitious world that borrows themes from the rapper's music and his real-life experiences with drug abuse.
The first iteration of the campaign appeared as a link on Eminem's Twitter on April 23. The link jumped to the above photo of the artist checking into a made-up rehab center, Popsomp Hills (read slowly: pop some pills). When fans Googled the name of the clinic, they found Popsomp's basic corporate website created for the campaign. The site lists a phone number, which fans can call to leave messages via scripted voicemail options.
"We turned to Twitter as an outlet for Eminem to reach his fans directly," says Eminem's manager Paul Rosenberg. "We wanted to create buzz and feed people a little bit of information at a time to keep them guessing, and keep them interested and make them curious."
"It was somewhat cryptic to give core fans the chance to discover this first and become evangelists," says Omelet executive creative director Shervin Samari. "Instead of doing a huge media blast, we let the fans do that." Check out Ad Age's story to learn more about results from the campaign.
@Eminem also revealed short, troubled tweets related to relapse and rehab up until the launch of the album's site, TheRelapse.com. Continuing the Popsomp Hills story, the site is an online game inside the fictional rehab clinic, where fans can piece together the story of Eminem's relapse, Dr. Timothy Balzac and why there is blood on the virtual walls. The campaign also includes an iPhone game from DS Media Labs, which Rosenberg says is like Mario Bros. but a lot more evil. The cartoonish game scrolls from left to right and involves a character who fights his way through potential relapses and freak-outs using various weapons. The interactive, print and promotions were integrated with Eminem's "3 a.m." music video (below) from Robot Films' directorial collective Syndrome.
"Our initial thought was that we needed something to really tie conceptually with the record," Rosenberg says. "It became this concept of a parallel world that doesn't really exist. We took concepts and themes from Em's album and what we knew we were going to do with the '3 a.m.' video and tied the entire thing together. There's recurring themes of drugs that reference Marshall's real life experiences in the past few years, including having overdosed once and relapsed twice. It's a digital fictitious world that's reflective of all of the things he's talking about on the record."
"Em's manager came to us with this notion of creating this universe to tell this story," Samari says. "We came back with the idea to create real world elements of this story: create this fictitious rehab facility that Eminem checked into, the elaborate story of how he checked in, how he got a weird treatment from a doctor who has unorthodox methods, something goes wrong with the doctor's experiment, Em somehow escapes, kills everybody and then is out on the loose."