'Fortune' Battle of the Corporate Bands: Who Rocks?

Chrysler Invites Consumers to Vote on CNNMoney

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A group of corporate executives will be gathering at a business event in Cleveland this Friday and Saturday. Only instead of discussing bills, they'll be sharing one.
The Loaners, the in-house band of Quicken Loans, were runners-up last year and are vying for the top rock honors this year.
The Loaners, the in-house band of Quicken Loans, were runners-up last year and are vying for the top rock honors this year.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Fortune Battle of the Corporate Bands competition will offer business men and women across the country (and Australia) the opportunity to live out their rock-star dreams. Only this year, the strictly-business event just got a lot more commercial: In a partnership with CNN Money, consumers for the first time can vote in Chrysler's "Fan's Choice Award."

Surprise success
So far, the public outreach has been a surprising success, with 110,000 votes cast for the nine competing bands as of Sept. 20.

"It blew us away," said Greg Schwartz, VP-advertising sales at CNNMoney.com. "We were expecting 25,000 based on media plans."

The final roster of nine bands is a diverse lineup of occupations, from San Francisco-based architects 4-Inch Studs to Suit Tie Hi-Fi, a group of compensation workers from Cambridge, Australia. Rules also do not exclude previous winners from participating, which is why 2005 runners-up The Loaners -- the in-house band of Quicken Loans -- are returning to vie for the top honors.

Mr. Schwartz said the combination of quality rock music from unlikely sources and the successful integration of new media into the Chrysler promotion are hopeful signs of things to come for the Battle of the Corporate Bands and for similar campaigns.

New levels of interactivity
"It really impacted how we approach our marketing activities," Mr. Schwartz said. "In the old days, the industry built lots of microsites and had a hard time bringing the audience from where they had to be to where they wouldn't think to go. Now we're using these big, rich-media units that expand and have interactivity and take them right into the page. The benefits are amazing."

There are also benefits aplenty for the performers themselves, from financial as well as health perspectives.

NAMM, an international organization that represents music retailers and manufacturers worldwide based in Southern California, recently launched a campaign called Weekend Warriors that presents advertisers with a list of advantages recreational music making provides people in their middle ages. With stress and depression taking their financial toll on companies (hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on doctor's visits and missed work days), NAMM President-CEO Joe Lamond said the ad industry has served as its strongest tool for promoting music making as a healthy hobby to baby boomers.

Positive apeal of playing music
"From selling cars to Charles Schwab, all segments of marketing seem to be taking advantage of the positive appeal of musical instruments and playing them," Mr. Lamond said. "We want to remove all the hurdles to make it easy for someone to say, 'I want to get back into this' and then all of a sudden buying equipment to ease them back in."

For musicians and consumers alike, this year's Battle of the Corporate Bands seems to signify a positive shift for future battles.

"When you ask for audience participation, rarely do you see hundreds of thousands turn out -- especially in business," Mr. Schwartz said. "You can bet we're going to do a major expansion of this program next year."
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