Campaign: Napster

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Well, Napster's back, having made an Oct. 29 re-debut, and apparently many music thieves still give a cat's ass, even though it's not free anymore. At any (bit)rate, San Francisco's Venables Bell & Partners has been driving this high-profile $15-20 million relaunch gig in true new-media style. First came the microsite, napsterbits.com. "We knew we had people eager to check on Napster's progress, and we knew we had months before we could launch," explains CD Paul Venables. "This was a way to keep them involved and entertained until we were ready." The site, says Venables, featured "episodic animations; we sort of recreated the cat's history and served it up as somewhat of a cliffhanger. Starting on the internet was a natural," he adds. "It's where the brand was born, and we wanted to be true to that. The animations became viral and were passed around and talked about all over the web." And lo and behold, lifts from these Flash animations became the TV, whose spots are arranged by music category-hip-hop, heavy metal and the like. Yeah, it may look a little primitive, but it's got that MP3 DIY spirit and all the eye-candy colors are clutterbustingly cute. "I don't think there's ever been another company that's created something using the tools of the web, and then exported it to their mainstream broadcast campaign," says Venables.

Outdoor ideas include a three-stage cat head on L.A.'s Sunset Strip, as hard to miss as a 500-pound hairball. Printwise, the initial round of ads "are complete teasers for the 'influencer' music consumer," Venables notes. "The idea is to tease, period. Not as part of the bigger campaign, not as a glimpse of what's to come. That, we feel, would be too perfect a communication, therefore too corporate." There was also a spate of major-city wild postings (like the Vapor ad seen here) in which "fake, sarcastically cheesy ads were posted, then we slapped kitty head stickers over somebody's face in the ad, with comical results. The fact that the stickers were a separate element and that they looked like guerrilla Xeroxes - not perfect, colorful logos - was key."

Client: Napster Agency: Venables Bell & Partners CDs: Paul Venables, Greg Bell ADs: Crystal English, Ray Andrade CWs: Quentin Shuldiner, Kevin Frank, Matt Rivitz Animation Director/Illustration: Ian Kovalik/Mekanism Illustration/Design: Geoff McFetridge Music: Elias Arts Sound Design: Elias Arts, Ripe Sound Editor: Robbie Proctor/Phoenix Editorial

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