NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The setting is a sepulchral rehab clinic, and the lead character is a drug-addled patient prone to self-reflective invectives in rhyming form. The story unfolds across TVs, magazines, mobile phones and cryptic websites, forcing viewers to piece the details together.
If that well-integrated campaign for Eminem's "The Relapse" sounds more like a film push than a record release, it's for a good reason. Marketing for the May 19 Aftermath/Interscope release was engineered in large part by Omelet, a Los Angeles-based agency that is looking to bring many of the strategies it's used with entertainment clients to the music industry.
Since 2004, the full-service shop has counted ABC, Anheuser-Busch, Focus Features, Fox TV Studios, Microsoft and Vivendi Games among its clients. Ad Age recognized Omelet on its Entertainment A-List for an interactive game it helped co-create for USA's "Burn Notice" called "Covert Ops." The game, which was sponsored by General Motors, attracted 500,000 unique visitors and lead to more qualified Saab sales leads than cars on lots.
The Eminem push is Omelet's first stab at leading a music campaign, but agency partner and Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Fey said the agency has been a creative consultant to Warner Bros. Records and has more music projects in the works. He recently spoke with Madison & Vine about how his 25-person shop is going to change the way branded content is put together and why a fully integrated approach is crucial to forming nontraditional experiences around music.
Madison & Vine: Few artists seem capable of taking on a starring role in an alternative-reality game, as Eminem did. What lessons can they glean from the "Rehab" campaign?
Ryan Fey: The lesson is: Be true to yourself. Don't be something you're not. What's great about "Relapse" and [fictional rehab facility] Pompsomp Hills is that they're born out of the actual DNA that Eminem carries. It's not just a marketing campaign; it's his story. You're taking something so personal and building this environment around it and personifying it.
M&V: How does an agency work itself deeper into a label's creative process?
Mr. Fey: The reason this worked is that there were people at every division of Interscope marketing working together with us, even the guys at Syndrome, who shot the music video. What they did really well is this: They had one idea in the middle of every touch point that made sense for consumers. They didn't do anything just because they had to check a box, and that's the first time I've seen this [in the record industry].
M&V: Part of your agency's model is creating unique content for brands. How will Omelet change music branding?
Mr. Fey: We have taken a look at the traditional [artists-and-repertoire] approach and have started to have conversations with many of the labels about setting up a system that lets the A&R team work together with a brand-management structure and [a creative-driven] agency to discover and mine new talent.
Basically, this means that we take a look at new talent and artists through a brand lens. This could mean taking a look at a band's location, their following, social-network audience and presence, mass marketability, niche quality, point of difference, etc., and of course the music. [This] gives us a more clear path to success based off brand guidelines and brand-development disciplines, which really only comes from our world and doesn't exist in the music industry.
M&V: A few musical artists have created online games, and yours for "Burn Notice" was a success. Do you think these kinds of experiences are useful for marketing music as well?
Mr. Fey: I absolutely do. ... I can see doing an animated series around an artist-character from one of their songs. The cool thing is you have this DNA with two characters, and you could extract and create a game, series, soap opera, whatever. That's so exciting and so fun and interesting. That's what we get out of bed to do. You could create something that's so compelling and entertaining that it lives past what it was created to market.