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Episode Seven: Man And Machine
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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- The most-talked about aspect of Lady Gaga's Beyonce co-starring, Jonas Akerlund-directed music video for "Telephone," which premiered Thursday night, was not the singer's flagrant partial nudity, girl-on-girl kissing or mass-murder sequence in a diner featuring Tyrese Gibson.
It was the product placement.
At least nine different brands make appearances in the nine-minute music video, from Gaga's own Heartbeats headphones to a "Beats Limited Edition" laptop, from HP Envy to "telephone" partner Virgin Mobile, and from Miracle Whip and Wonder Bread to Diet Coke.
Almost instantly, the video lighted up the web with reactions from the likes of the Huffington Post, The Guardian, Jezebel, Rolling Stone and Interview Magazine, which gave a helpful rundown of all the brands -- including fashion and accessories -- that make appearances.
But despite the cornucopia of products, only a handful were paid placements, said Gaga's manager, Troy Carter, CEO of Coalition Media Group.
Mr. Carter told Ad Age that several of the brands were Gaga's ideas and did not pay to be included. A scene in which Gaga curls her hair with Diet Coke cans was an homage to her mother, who used the exact same grooming technique in the '70s. Another sequence, in which Gaga poisons a whole diner full of patrons, is interspersed with footage of the singer making sandwiches with Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip. Mr. Carter said Gaga wanted to juxtapose the poison sequence with all-American brands, and suggested Wonder Bread for an unpaid placement. Miracle Whip, meanwhile, made a paid appearance to appear in the clip. A Miracle Whip spokeswoman confirmed the brand's paid integration, but didn't comment further. The product shots feature new Miracle Whip packaging, and seem the latest in a series of Gen-Y outreach maneuvers, including a new campaign promising "we will not tone it down."
Featured throughout "Telephone" are shots of a Virgin Mobile cellphone, a nod given to the mobile sponsor of Gaga's Monster Ball tour, as well as a Polaroid camera and photo booth as part of Gaga's new role as the camera company's creative director. Several characters are also seen listening to music on Heartbeats by Gaga headphones from Interscope Music and surfing the internet on the "Beats" laptop from Hewlett Packard, all of which were unpaid extensions of Gaga's marketing partnerships.
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PlentyofFish.com, an online dating site, also makes a surprise appearance, the result of ongoing talks with Gaga's marketing team at Universal Music to find the right project.
Plenty of Fish VP Kimberly Kaplan on Friday said the dating site got into the video through an ongoing partnership with Interscope Records. This just the second music-video integration for Plenty of Fish, which still does the bulk of its advertising online. She admitted the brand was "nervous" without creative input, but very pleased with the outcome. Plenty of Fish had seen a 15% increase in search by close of business Friday, but wasn't yet able to quantify an increase in traffic.
If 'Thriller' were made today
"We have a lot of fun with it now," Mr. Carter said of the "Telephone" video's product placement. "If Michael Jackson was making 'Thriller,' he would do this too. These million-dollar music videos have to have partners to be produced."
Dyana Kass, who heads up pop music marketing at Universal Music Group, added, "We were trying to line up brands that were organic. There were natural pieces in there, like being in a kitchen, so those kind of scenes that just made sense for brands. But we always agree creatively, and get sign-off before we walk down the aisle."
Mr. Carter would not comment on the nine-minute, Jonas Akerlund-directed video's budget, other than to say, "Lady Gaga plus Beyonce equals an expensive video."
The video was shot across three days and took a month and a half to edit. Its premiere airing on E! News, after the network's 11 p.m. ET time slot, attracted 833,000 viewers, a 32% increase from the network's average performance in the time slot.
Mr. Carter said E! was selected over MTV and other music networks because "we wanted a network partner that was going to show the video as it was intended to be shown. They gave us 20 minutes of real estate on their network ... and it was pretty much unedited."
Online, music-video site Vevo bought a slot on the YouTube home page that referred users to the "Telephone" page on Vevo.com, which crashed the morning of the clip's premiere. The video broke all Vevo single-day traffic records and had already generated close to 4 million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours.
As for the "To be continued..." message at the video's end? "Stay tuned," Mr. Carter teased.