Grammys take hard-line against online music piracy

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With ethical behavior suddenly back on the music industry's agenda, last night's Grammy Awards became a bully pulpit against illegal downloading.

One of Grammy sponsor Heineken's spots from Publicis, New York that aired is called "Piracy," and shows a guy downloading music to his MP3 player and then heading to the fridge for a beer, only to be confronted by an empty six pack, thanks to his roommate's pilfering. The tagline: "Piracy is so wrong."

Dan Tearno, VP-corporate affairs, said Heineken had been in contact with the Grammy organizers and was aware of the industry's attempts to confront the problem of music theft. He added that the company liked to play into contemporary themes and appeal to consumers "from the neck up."

`what's the download'

The Recording Academy, which organizes the Grammys, also kicked off its own wide-ranging campaign on the CBS awards show. The Recording Academy is working with public relations firm Edelman, New York, on an initiative titled, "What's the Download." Edelman ad agency Blue produced the public service announcements (See the spot at QwikFIND aap35c).

One PSA, which CBS aired, features a girl downloading music at her computer juxtaposed with kids dancing in a club. As the download completes, the music starts to die and the lights go out in the club. The spot aims to show how the music industry is shrinking as a result of illegal downloads.

Edelman and the Recording Academy spent eight months in focus groups with youngsters before tweaking initial ad concepts. Focus-group research found teens and young adults brought up on shows such as MTV's "Cribs," did not respond well to pleas from rich pop stars about how their rights were being violated. "They did care about what the artists thought," said Ron Roecker, senior director-communications at the Recording Academy, but didn't want to hear it straight from them.

"There was such confusion about what is illegal," said Mr. Roecker, explaining that unlike other campaigns, this is not aimed at threatening anyone with legal action, but rather to get consumers thinking about what's ethical. "We are not so naive to think we'll change behavior overnight," he added. An accompanying Web site,, launched Feb. 8.

Separately, PepsiCo. is airing an ad produced in conjunction with Apple iTunes that promotes a music giveaway. The spot, from BBDO Worldwide, New York, part of Omnicom Group, appears to glamorize the youngsters who have attracted record-company lawsuits. The youngsters talk about how they'll continue to download free music because of the giveaway to the tune of "I fought the law, and the law won."

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