The Man Who Put HP in Jessica Simpson's Music Video

Steve Yanovsky Has Spent 20 Years Pairing Marketers With Musicians

By Published on .

Who: Steve Yanovsky, principal, Brand Alchemy, and co-founder of DriverTV.
Steve Yanovsky integrated three new HP products into the storyline of the new Jessica Simpson video 'A Public Affair' but he says, 'Marketers must always realize that creative comes first.'

Why you need to know him: Mr. Yanovsky has successfully spent two decades pairing brands with music. He recently helped integrate Hewlett-Packard products into the first music video for Jessica Simpson's new album, "A Public Affair."

Credentials: Mr. Yanovsky has spent the past 20 years working as an entertainment-marketing executive, focused on pairing events or brands, including Apple Computer, Electronic Arts, ESPN, NBC Sports, Major League Baseball, Heineken, Mountain Dew and Cingular, with music artists. An accomplished musician and composer, he began his career in music as a jingle producer for Centerfield Productions. He's also worked for Atlantic Records, ArtistDirect, Musicentives and Buzztone, and is the co-founder of DriverTV, an automotive video-on-demand and advertising platform that recently made its debut on Comcast, Time Warner and Cox, featuring high-definition videos of the latest vehicles from General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler and Ford Motor Co., among others.

Since you've been involved in so many sponsorship deals between marketers and musicians, talk about how those deals used to come together and what they involved. "Tour sponsorships, branded entertainment or what I refer to as CFMs [content-for-media] partnerships were initially driven by a handful of very astute former music-industry executives who worked very closely with artists' managers to monetize their artists' intellectual property in much the same way as the studios were doing through product placement, retail or media promotions, distribution, merchandising, screenings, premieres and other film-industry marketing vehicles. Artists and their management have always retained primary control of the largest revenue pipelines in the music industry -- touring, merchandising and publishing. As artist tour cycles most often begin around a new album release, most sponsorship deals were structured between artists and brands directly. The labels benefited from having a significant amount of additional media support through the sponsorship: PR, advertising, hospitality, meet-and-greets, ticket giveaways and radio, retail and internet promotions."

How have they changed over the years, both for the artists and the marketers? "Given the enormous number of entertainment choices and the ease in which consumers more readily access content and time shift their engagement with it, CMOs began to scrutinize the ROI associated with these and other types of sponsorship and integration deals. To assist them, they engaged so-called music experts within their various entertainment marketing agencies to evaluate the efficacy of these programs. At the same time, labels built their own strategic-marketing departments to service brands with opportunities surrounding an album release or tour."

How do you think they will they evolve further? "Technology has allowed us all to have more flexibility in the creative process and in altering our marketing tactics on the fly. Ideally, if product cycles for brands could be aligned around album or tour cycles, fully integrated programs with artists would be more plausible. Music offers an almost never-ending amount of content and distribution mechanisms to engage consumers. If connecting on an emotional level is key to consumer engagement, marketers should be open to guidance from labels, managers and artists. Musicians often know their audience better than marketers do and can garner a great deal of learning in how to engage the audience most effectively, rather than disruptively, over the long term."

How do you structure deals so that marketers feel like they're getting what they want and artists don't feel compromised? "On both sides, there has to be a better understanding of what the opportunities are and build the deliverables accordingly, rather than begin with the deliverables. Marketers and artists are adjusting to the new rules of consumer engagement, where relevance is at the top of the list. Marketers have to embrace and accept new measurement methodologies and ROI."

How much is too much? Is there a cap on how many products you think can be placed in music videos? "Regardless of quantity or time on screen, both brands and artists should be most concerned with relevance and context. Consumers are smarter than we give them credit for; they know when they are being sold and told. For Jessica Simpson's new video, 'A Public Affair,' I worked on integrating three new HP products into the storyline. Marketers must always realize that creative comes first. All of the products had context within the video and are relevant to the target's lifestyle. But ultimately, Jessica and director Brett Ratner had the final creative decision."

Are you seeing brands that want to be in music videos that didn't before? "Yes. You will see some products from new automotive, fashion, beverage and telco brands. [Some brands] even [want] lyrical placement."

How do you measure if placement in a music video actually sells product? "Busta Rhymes' 'Pass the Courvoisier' is the ideal example. The brand saw an initial bump in sales that steadily increased as its rotation increased. Today, there are a few solutions but they are predicated on marketers providing a call to action. The success of these placements also depends on the audience of the artist, the number of times a video airs and the popularity of the video. The seemingly most effective tool I have been involved with is Sony BMG's Musicbox preroll advertising offered in front of all their music videos. As an example, in the two weeks since its debut, 'A Public Affair' has had over 2 million unique streams. Since the ads are clickable, a call-to-action ad can be easily tracked."

Have you seen any sponsorships that you think missed the mark? "In my humble opinion, Coke and 'American Idol.' On-air, it was too overt. I believe they could have gotten more mileage out of merely running the Coke Rewards spots, as they were truly a call to action. Within product placement, Coke is the leader in product integration, but too much can be intrusive. I got a red headache just from watching."

Any particularly good ones? "The Dew Action Sports Tour and Nike Battlegrounds. Mountain Dew has always been an evangelist of action sports, which continues to boom. They are the brand that belongs at the top of that marquee. Even with all the soft-drink competition at the height of summer consumption, they are beverage of choice of 12- to 24-year-old males. Nike Battlegrounds came about from sponsoring a street basketball tournament that morphed into one of the best examples of branded-entertainment programming."

If music is so important to so many people, then why do you think the record industry is in such a slump? "To many, it is hard to believe that all those bobbing heads with white ear buds does not add up to a boon for the record industry. Music has not lost its importance, it has just been commoditized and essentially devalued."

Do you have a favorite band? "Music is all about moments. And all music is contemporary, timeless. Depending on the mood, lots of favorites: Bob Dylan, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, Annie Lennox, Pink Floyd, Jay Z, Audioslave, Bonnie Raitt, U2, The Police, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, REM."

What's the best live show you've seen recently? "Hands down, Audioslave at Madison Square Garden, Oct. 29, 2005."

What's on your iPod? "I have two: a first-generation 20G and a new 60G that still is not enough room for my entire album collection. Here are my top 10 albums this week: Audioslave's 'Out of Exile,' Gnarls Barkley's 'St. Elsewhere,' Oystein Sevag's 'Visual,' Zero 7's 'The Garden,' She Wants Revenge's 'She Wants Revenge,' Miles Davis' 'Seven Steps,' John Coltrane's 'Africa Brass,' Bob Dylan's 'Desire,' Bonnie Raitt's 'Souls Alive' and Public Enemy's 'Fear of a Black Planet.'"
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