Which boy-band band is that? 'N Sync? Backstreet Boys?
"Hello. Beatles," says his assistant in a side room, answering the phone.
Late last year, the Beatles and Capitol Records shocked the music industry with the Nov. 14 release of "1," an album of 27 No. 1 hits. Though these songs have been around for years, the album surprised the industry, rocketing to the No. 1 position immediately, blowing off the charts modern-day popular artists such as Eminem, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.
Mr. Ayeroff, in his role as consultant to Capitol on the project, was responsible for making all the marketing pieces come together, including TV and print advertising, retail tie-ins, public relations and a TV documentary. He came into the project with a significant background as former co-president of Epic Records' Work Group, and co-chairman Virgin Records America.
BEST SELLING EVER?
After 31/2 months on the top of the charts, the album has sold a whopping 6.7 million copies in the U.S., according to Soundscan, the music retail research company. (The all-time record is 27 million for "Eagles-Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975," released in the '70s). The Beatles' "1" has sold an astounding 27 million worldwide. More shocking still, music analysts are predicting that in a few years, it will probably be the best selling album-ever.
And this from a band that broke up 31 years ago.
"It's pretty remarkable considering that all these songs have been available for some time," says David Davis, senior VP-equity investments for Houlihan Lokey, an investment company.
Chris Stephenson, senior VP-marketing for House of Blues Entertainment, and a Liverpool native just like the Beatles, says, "It was a great exercise in music marketing-what an amazing way of leveraging your catalog."
Apple Corps, parent of the Beatles' Apple Records label, worked with ABC Entertainment and VH1, which co-produced a 2-hour documentary program that ultimately became "The Beatles Revolution." The program aired on ABC during the sweeps period on Nov. 17 and again on VH1 on Nov. 23. The program served to bolster the marketing launch of the recording "1."
Mr. Ayeroff says a majority of marketing credit for the TV program goes to David Saltz, one of three executive documentary co-producers.
At retail, the marketing plan was aimed at young teens and kids who, while familiar with the Beatles, had never bought a release. The plan, originally conceived by Neil Aspinall, Apple Corps executive producer, was to do a mass-marketing campaign at retailers such as Best Buy Co., Kmart Corp., Target Stores and Wal-Mart Stores. Mr. Ayeroff and his team were the field generals for the U.S. marketing attack.
"Beatles records were traditionally sold in malls, in places like [specialty retailer] Tower Records," he says. "The mass-market records today-Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, R.E.M.-are sold at Wal-Marts, Kmarts, Targets and Best Buys. Our goal was to sell it in the same way as a mass-market release."
Supporting this was a series of short-form direct response infomercials created in-house. Media buying was handled by Castalian Music, Santa Monica, Calif.
Most of the $3 million to $4 million budget was spent in TV advertising. Most of the retailers contributed heavily to this media buy in newspaper inserts and in local TV.
"To substitute airplay, we had to substitute with a TV advertising campaign," Mr. Ayeroff says. "We used that as a launching pad three weeks before the record came out."
Getting retailers on board was part of the marketing plan.
"We sent out sales sheets [to retailers] five weeks before the release," says Mr. Ayeroff, as he shows off a slick sales package, similarly themed to the bright red and yellow artwork on the "1" release. Retailers "don't normally get this."
The sales piece used some of famed photographer Richard Avedon's shots, the first time these photos were used.
Timing was a key issue for the Thanksgiving release. Diarmuid Quinn, a partner with Mr. Ayeroff at SoftMachine, a Hollywood record-marketing agency, also says: "It was timed with Christmas, so it became the Christmas gift. Because of the mass merchandising pricing, you could buy this for 10 bucks."
In conjunction with the Beatles activities, Miramax Films rereleased the 1964 film "A Hard Day's Night," also around Thanksgiving, to take advantage of the hype. While Apple Corps wasn't involved in this, the movie did add to the buzz of the Beatles for all property owners.
TV Guide also got into the act by producing five covers-one for each Beatle and another embossed, pure white cover, a takeoff on the Beatles' "White Album." The covers were used to feature the ABC/VH1 documentary.
And while there have been a number of unofficial Beatles Web sites for some time, Apple's first official Beatles Web site (thebeatles. com) was launched Nov. 13, a day before the release of "1." This also brought in major traffic, specifically young listeners new to the band.
If that wasn't all, there was a new book published by Chronicle Books, "The Beatles Anthology," which was released in October and spent several weeks in the No. 1 position on The New York Times best-seller list.
TIMELESSNESS OF GROUP
Why did all this work? "There is a timelessness of the Beatles that probably doesn't exist in too many other entertainment media," Mr. Ayeroff says.
In his office at Capitol, Mr. Ayeroff shows off the March Rolling Stone cover and another that never made it to print. The unpublished cover features a shot from Mr. Avedon's famous Abbey Road photo shoot. Only this time the Beatles are walking across the road from right to left, and Paul isn't barefoot. He has sandals on.
"That was the first proposal we made to [Rolling Stone]," says Mr. Ayeroff. "It's an outtake. There were only six shots."
Then he points to the official cover that Rolling Stone used-something that shows the emotional barometer of how the music industry and public still feel about the band.
The cover shows four separate pictures of the Beatles with perhaps the best cover line a marketer could want-after one big long and winding road:
"The Hottest Band in the World: The Beatles."