Fefe Dobson Rockets to Fame From a Viral Marketing Campaign

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NEW YORK ( -- Eager to find innovative ways to showcase new artists, record labels have turned to the Web to create meaningful exposure and buzz among an artist's target audience.
In its debut week in December, Ms. Dobson's Web-promoted album sold 30,000 copies, 17,000 more than Def Jam expected it to.

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The Web, along with a host of offline marketing activities, has already proved to be a winning formula for singer-songwriter Fefe Dobson. The 18-year-old Island Def Jam recording artist was launched just a few months ago through a viral Web and offline marketing program created by Alloy's 360 Youth, New York.

'Vote for your school'
The resulting online "Vote For Your School" contest is a prime example of how the Web can be tapped to create an emotional bond with the often fickle teen and young adult audience.

Fefe Dobson was discovered nearly two years ago by Lyor Cohen, CEO-president of Island Def Jam Music Group, who first heard her sing at 8:30 a.m. in a dingy Toronto bar.

"She blew my mind, it was obvious to me that she was an amazing talent," Mr. Cohen recalled.

One of six children born to six different fathers, Ms. Dobson has said the only thing that saved her growing up was spending time at a performing arts center and channeling her feelings through her singing and songwriting. Mr. Cohen liked her perspective and truthfulness and signed her. In its debut week in December, Ms. Dobson's self-titled album sold 30,000 copies, 17,000 more than Def Jam expected it to.

Top 10 on MTV
So how does a relative unknown skyrocket in less than two months to a Top 10 artist on MTV's Total Request Live and to make the Top 25 on the Billboard Pop chart? Partnering with 360 Youth, Def Jam last fall introduced Fefe to teen girls using a contest on where they could compete to win a performance by the artist at their school. The school with the most votes would win the performance. Children recruited their peers to go online and vote via Fefe-branded e-cards. featured Fefe imagery and editorial.

In addition, Alloy tapped into its substantial direct-marketing resources, including a database of 25 million teens and college students, Delia's and Alloy catalogs, online media and in-school location media. In-school media supporting the Fefe contest totaled 120 media boards in middle and high schools in six markets. The boards were emblazoned with ads inviting young people to visit to vote.

"The combination of the ability to be in schools and to have a robust online [component] is our strength," said Samantha Skey, vice president of convergent marketing at Alloy's 360 Youth.

Contacted 50,000 girls
360 Youth also sent e-mail to 50,000 girls about the contest and offered downloads using Alloy's proprietary database specifically targeted to the six markets. The November Alloy catalog (the catalog has a circulation of 2.3 million) included a postcard promoting Fefe's album and video. Skyview High School in Nampa, Idaho, won the contest with more than 80% of its 1,700 students voting and scored a performance by the artist Dec. 4, along with a $1,500 donation to its music program.

Notable results for the program include: 52,705 visits to the Fefe Dobson microsite on, more than 20 million in-school location media impressions in 357 schools nationwide; and 180,000 custom e-mails sent to teens from the 360 Youth database.

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