WPP and Universal Music unveil BrandAmp joint venture

LONDON - WPP Group and Universal Music have unveiled details of their new 50:50 joint venture business BrandAmp, which will team up the ad group's brand clients with Universal's artists.

BrandAmp will be based in London and develop music and brand partnerships for clients.

It will give marketers direct, immediate access to Universal Music's resources and catalogue -- as well as its music expertise. BrandAmp will identify ways for WPP agencies and clients to tap into the growing appetite for music, including sponsorship activities.

The venture will also work with other artists and record companies in handling third-party deals and music partnerships.

Universal's artists include Scissor Sisters and James Morrison and it also has a back catalogue of stars such as Stevie Wonder, Elton John and The Mamas and the Papas.

The deal was revealed today by Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, and Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of the WPP Group.

Sorrell said: "In a world of media fragmentation, music remains a powerful medium. We see an increasing desire for brands to partner with bands.

"BrandAmp will allow us to facilitate and manage those partnerships more successfully. Universal Music is the world's leading music company, with a roster of artists of unmatched breadth and diversity. It is the perfect partner to provide marketers with the most compelling and imaginative music solutions."

In the UK, Universal Music has a 20-year relationship with MediaCom, one of WPP's media agencies. Earlier this month, MediaCom scooped the £21m Universal Pictures account. The joint venture with Universal Music will be run through Group M, WPP's combined media unit.

Some advertising agencies already have divisions that are dedicated to matching ad scripts with the perfect soundtrack, such as Huge Music, based at WCRS, or TBWA\Stream.

But the deal with Universal and WPP is reported to be far more wide-ranging, and could even mean well-known bands creating music especially for ad campaigns.

As far back as the 1970s, when Coca-Cola's 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing' jingle became a hit around the world, advertising and popular music have been bedfellows.

However, it was not until the release of Moby's 'Play' album in 1999, in which every track was licensed to appear in one or more advertising campaigns, that record labels really woke up to the commercial benefits of getting their artists featured in advertising.

Bands to have seen their songs become hits after featuring in ads include The Dandy Warhols, whose 'Bohemian Like You' was used by Vodafone, while the Sony Bravia "balls" ad made a hit of Jose Gonzalez' 'Heartbeats'. Marlena Shaw, whose 1969 classic 'California Soul' was used in a KFC ad, has even been heard to introduce the tune at gigs as "that fried chicken song".

More recently, Bob Dylan has signed a wide-ranging deal with Apple, in which he promotes its iTunes service while iTunes pushes his new album, 'Modern Times'.

Even with the one-time counter-cultural demi-god Dylan doing ads, there are still artists who view it as selling out.

Franz Ferdinand reportedly turned down £25m to allow one of their tracks to be used in an unnamed ad campaign. Noel Gallagher has also been critical of fellow rock star Jack White, who penned a jingle for a Coca-Cola spot earlier this year.

If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum.

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