CDnow touts new abilities in $6 mil campaign

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CDnow breaks a campaign during the Feb. 24 Grammy Awards reflecting the first work for the CDnow and N2K brands' combined capabilities.

While CDnow and N2K expect to finalize their merger in the next month, the two companies already are working closely together and collaborated on the campaign, said Rod Parker, senior VP-marketing and merchandising at CDnow.

N2K runs Music Boulevard, Jazz Central Station, and other music content and retail sites.

The campaign "reflects the combined efforts and the brand persona we want to have going forward," Mr. Parker said. "We're creating an e-commerce identity for an online music store."

Created by Hampel/Stefanides, New York, the campaign includes three :30s, which will run during the awards program on CBS, during "Late Night with David Letterman" and heavily on MTV and VH1 throughout '99. A print ad is running in Rolling Stone and radio spots are airing around the Grammy telecast.

CDnow is also creating online ads and promotions in-house. Organic, New York, is its Web agency.

MULTIMEDIA EFFORT

Mr. Parker estimates the budget at about $6 million, with Grammy ad spending at "just north of a couple million dollars," combined with radio, print and the MTV and VH1 ad buys that are part of a three-year, $22.5 million promotional package CDnow signed with MTV Networks last year.

The campaign, aimed at 25-to-49-year-olds, tries to reflect the eclectic tastes of this age group that are represented in the 300,000 titles for sale at CDnow, Mr. Parker said.

Tagged "Your music. Your store," the spots show three actors posing as real people whose taste in music runs the gamut from classical to classic rock. The creative reinforces the theme with a mix of film, animated images and Web-site shots for a collage effect.

In one spot, a hat designer explains that she customizes her CDnow site to include content and merchandise from mystical sitar music to Frank Zappa. The spot ends with the question: "What's your CDnow like?"

CDnow launched its first TV campaign during the Grammy Awards last year and created a rush of traffic by offering 50% off award-winner's titles. This year, Mr. Parker said it's toning down the promotion, offering 30% off.

MORE EMOTIONAL

Compared to last year's spots, which were meant "to put a face on the brand" and were more direct, this year's spots are more emotional, said Kevin Perlmutter, VP-account supervisor at Hampel.

CDnow is still using an integrated approach, building out an area on its site where people can read more about characters from the ads and find information about their musical picks.

Until the merger is completed, all promotions will mention only CDnow, which is the intended brand name for the new company, Mr. Parker said.

N2K's agency of record, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, will no longer work with the company.

"We decided to pare our resources and Hampel/Stefanides is the agency going forward," Mr. Parker said.

Copyright February 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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