LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- When personal-care giant Nivea paired with up-and-coming rock band Parachute for a recent ad campaign, the marketer and the band's label may have found a way for brands to be more proactive with musical acts while also boosting their bottom lines.
Nivea, the 127-year-old German brand best known for its cobalt-blue tins of beauty products, had a problem: Despite being a $5.5 billion brand and the cosmetics market leader in Europe, Nivea was stuck at only 8% of the U.S. hand- and body-cream market.
Like Nivea, Parachute -- a five-member alt-rock band with a vigorous touring schedule and a record deal with Universal Music Group's Mercury Records -- faced a similar anonymity problem: They were rock gods, but largely on the University of Virginia campus and in their hometown of Charlottesville -- which is to say, not very divine at all.
But by working with Universal Music's Island Def Jam division, Nivea sought to change all that for both brand and band.
"I told them, 'I have this TV campaign which is promoting a message of sensuality. It'd be a great medium -- provided it had the right music,'" said Nicolas Maurer, VP-marketing at Beiersdorf, which owns Nivea.
Island Def Jam played Parachute for Nivea, which liked the band's sound but pushed to refashion its single "She Is Love." Island Def Jam's artists-and-repertoire agents massaged "She Is Love" this way and that, and settled on an acoustic version for Nivea's marketing department.
Delighted with the stripped-down, sensual result, Nivea quickly incorporated "She Is Love" into its first national TV ad, which peppered the airwaves from January until the start of this month. Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, handles Nivea's account.
The return on investment has been staggering for both brand and band. Mr. Maurer said Nivea's U.S. sales increased between 15% and 18%, depending on the product, during the time the TV spots aired. The acoustic version of "She Is Love" has been streamed 911,000 times on MySpace and the electric version 422,000 times. On iTunes, "She Is Love" has been purchased and downloaded more than 20,000 times.
"TV has become the new model" for breaking musical acts, said Jeff Straughn, VP-strategic marketing at Island Def Jam Music Group. And aligning with a brand on TV has leapfrogged ahead of radio in the label's arsenal of hype.
The success of Parachute's deal may mean that retrofitting pop tunes for TV spots may soon be replaced by even greater collaboration beforehand, Mr. Maurer said.
"We're not at the stage where we have the artists developing the music for the commercial, but that's an opportunity for the future," he said.
Nivea will also make Parachute's second single, "Under Control," part of the brand's next national TV ad, which will run from April to May, when Parachute's album is finally available for sale. Already "Under Control" has been streamed some 70,000 times on MySpace Music.
Will consumers pay for album?
But will consumers pay for a new band's album when they have already purchased its top singles? Mr. Straughn isn't worried.
"New artists like this, they're not going to have a big first week like Britney Spears," he said. "This is all about penetration and saturation; it's not going have any negative impact on sales."
Unconventional retail promotion will also be crucial to Parachute's opening. Island Def Jam is putting the finishing touches on an interbrand coupon deal with Target's nearly 1,700 stores. Consumers will get a dollar off any Nivea product when they buy the Parachute album, and get a dollar off the Parachute album when they buy any Nivea product.
Nivea may well have pulled the Parachute ripcord at just the right time: Sensing the buzz on the band, Coca-Cola has booked Parachute as the opening act for the Pussycat Dolls during My Coke Fest, the live entertainment show taking place at the NCAA's March Madness championship in San Antonio.