How 'Straight Outta Compton' Viral Marketing Became a Sensation
In May, rapper-mogul Dr. Dre called together a meeting with top-level marketing executives from Universal Pictures, Universal Music’s Interscope label, Apple and his own Beats audio company.
The release of Universal’s N.W.A biopic "Straight Outta Compton," which he produced, was just three months away, as was the launch of his first album in 14 years, Compton, a companion piece to the film.
So he looked around the room and said: “What do you guys got?”
During the past two weeks, leading up to today's Aug. 14 release of "Straight Outta Compton", he got his answer: The efforts of the four companies resulted in several attention-getting plays: When UFC champ Ronda Rousey knocked out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds on Aug. 1, the "Straight Outta Compton" label was right below her on the mat; there was an ad for the film that played during the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6; the “Straight Outta Somewhere” meme went viral with nearly 6 million personalized labels being shared on the Internet; and the word “Compton” was literally painted over the skies of Los Angeles.
The “Straight Outta Somewhere” meme was the brainchild of Beats by Dre, in partnership with Universal. After three junior Beats employees were tasked with coming up with a campaign, they stumbled upon a video of Dre talking about how the members of N.W.A named their debut album "Straight Outta Compton" because they wanted to show they were proud of where they came from.
“That is where the campaign took its form,” says Johnson. “It wasn’t about Compton as a place anymore, it became about being proud of where you’re from.”
“We see this as just the beginning,” adds Johnson, who points to celebrities like Jennifer Lopez who have created their own memes, leading to big spikes in activity. “I think it has room to grow and we’re seeing traffic increase day after day after day.”
Tweeted images of the word “Compton” peppered across the sky all over Los Angeles also became a viral sensation.
Interscope Records organized the skywriting as a promotional tool for Dre’s new album. It was only on Aug. 1 that Dre announced he’d be releasing Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre, and that the album, from Dre’s Interscope label Aftermath Entertainment, would be released exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music on Aug. 7.
“We really had six days to prepare for the launch,” says Interscope vice chairman Steve Berman. “We wanted to make as much of a statement, especially in Dre’s hometown, as we possibly could.”
The skywriting took over Los Angeles on Aug. 7 and 8, and also appeared in skies above the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco that same weekend. Plus, Interscope booked skywriting for Monday, Aug. 10, to coincide with the red carpet premiere of "Straight Outta Compton" in downtown Los Angeles.
“It’s a very effective tool in certain markets, especially the way social network can create a buzz,” says Berman. “We definitely caught that wave in this campaign.”
Interscope will also be tying their album promotion to the film over opening weekend by running an album teaser in front of screenings of "Straight Outta Compton."
“The synergy that was taking place between Beats and Apple and the film company and the record company is something that was being orchestrated for the past couple of months when everything started to crystalize,” says Berman. “The promotions all complement each other going into the launch of the film, and it’s created a huge amount of energy and excitement.”