Rock Stars Clamor to Be in Car Promotion Calendar

Chevrolet/'Rolling Stone' Advertainment Project Is a Hit

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- In 2002 when General Motors Corp. and Rolling Stone magazine worked to pair music stars and Chevrolet vehicles in photos for a 2003 promotional calendar, they had trouble cajoling recording artists to be part of such an advertainment project.

Rock heavies and their album labels wanted to be in the car promotion calendar. Click to see full image.

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But a year later, as the companies put together the 2004 version of the co-branded calendar, it was a very different story in what was becoming a very different music and marketing business.

"We had the record labels calling us trying to get their bands in," said Rolling Stone's publisher, Rob Gregory.

Marketing tool
Mr. Gregory said that in less than a year, the Chevrolet/Rolling Stone "Year in Rock" calendar has become "the best-selling tool I have to show marketers how to capitalize on music and artists in more strategic ways."

Working closely with Chevrolet and its ad agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald of Warren, Mich., Rolling Stone's Music Consulting Group developed the concept, Mr. Gregory said.

He said 1.5 million calendars were printed for 2004, significantly higher than last year's inaugural run; some will also be available at Chevrolet dealerships and select brand events. Mr. Gregory described Chevrolet as a "major advertiser" in Rolling Stone, which ran 25 advertising pages in 2003. "We tied the calendar to a page commitment from Chevrolet," he said.

Of the $463 million the automaker spent in measured media during the first nine months of 2003, roughly 25%, or $123 million, went into magazines, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Music industry upheavel
The first version of the calendar circulated widely during a time when the music distribution industry was grappling with the most dramatic changes in its history and wholeheartedly embracing a concept it has previously largely avoided: the mixing of popular music and advertising into new forms of branded entertainment activities.

The calendar's February stars -- post-grungers Third Eye Blind -- celebrate the car brand's history with a ride in a vintage Impala. Click to see full image.

Observers note that unlike Chrysler Group's glitzy Celine Dion deal, which fared so poorly last year, the calendar project appears to have quietly established a simple but effective advertainment format directly relevant to younger buyers of the fast and fashionable in cars and music.

Mr. Gregory said the first calendar had opened the door to deals with other advertisers, including Coca-Cola Co. and Heineken, and that the concept is now so important to Rolling Stone's ad sales efforts that sales staffers must take the calendar on every call.

"It's [our] best example of the power of the Rolling Stone brand in a co-marketing deal," he said.

The new "Year in Rock" calendar features a bikinied pop star, Ashanti, on the cover next to a 1966 atomic yellow classic Corvette and as Miss July atop a 2004 red Corvette convertible. Melissa Etheridge (January) squints in front of the retro-looking SSR hardtop pickup and Third Eye Blind cruises a drive-in in a vintage Impala convertible (February).

'Iconic relationship'
The calendar wants to celebrate that both the cars and the stars have an "iconic relationship," continuing last year's campaign theme that loudly touted the many song lyrics that mention the "Chevy" brand. That campaign was just dropped in favor of the new Chevrolet umbrella theme "An American Revolution" for both its cars and trucks.

Despite the end of the automaker's lyrics campaign, the marketer sees the calendar as a way "to get Chevrolet in front of young customers," a spokesman at Chevrolet said. The brand's connection with popular music and popular culture is still essential, he added.

Chevrolet, which has lost share in the car segment, is readying a slew of crucial vehicle launches it hopes will beef up sales and brand image.

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