Warner music and vid promos tune together

Semel remark generates cross-promotional plan

HOLLYWOOD — Execs at entertainment congloms like to talk about teaming their subsidiary companies to promote each arm’s products, but few ever translate the words into deeds.

But at the suggestion of Warner Bros. chairmen and co-CEOs Bob Daly and Terry Semel, Warner Music Group and Warner Home Video have teamed to create a unique cross-promotion designed to herald the availability of albums released by the music arm while getting consumers to rent more homevideos.

Execs at the vid and music arms have commissioned specially created commercial spots that are camouflaged as an entertainment program that touts the latest album releases from artists in the Warner family.

The spots, dubbed “Inside Tracks” will be placed at the beginning of select homevideo titles. In turn, consumers renting the selected vids get a coupon contained inside allowing them to obtain a sampler of the music by the featured artists.

The creation of the tie-in stems from a remark by Semel last year that the music industry doesn’t spend much time directly targeting the consumer.

But because the remark came from a widely respected film chieftain and not a music industry vet, it was quickly dismissed by wags who viewed it as an observation from an uninformed newcomer.

The industry is known for its record execs full-court-pressing radio programmers to add an artist’s song to a playlist and cajoling music cablers to get a music video put into rotation.

But Semel’s observation proved prescient.

A recent survey commissioned by the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers, a record industry trade group, determined that 60% of record buyers said they did not always know when their favorite artists released a record.

The linking of the conglom’s Warner Music Group and Warner Home Video divisions is being positioned to serve as a reminder to those consumers, but also to help spur record sales of new acts.

“This kind of cross-promotion is an extremely effective way of talking directly to the consumer,” Daly told Daily Variety. “It makes a lot of sense for all concerned and we intend to create opportunities to do many more of them.”

The advertisement of “Inside Tracks” will precede the feature on 1.2 million rental cassettes on eight of the studio’s films, beginning with “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “Fallen” and “The Postman.” It is expected to make more than 72 million impressions during the program’s three-month window.

“We’ve tried to be sensitive to the people that are paying to rent this video, so we didn’t do this promotion with a traditional advertising message like ‘visit your local record store and buy this’ kind of thing,” said Jim Noonan, senior veep of Warner Music Group, who is overseeing the promotion with homevideo execs. “It’s done in a way that we hope they find interesting and informative, as sort of an entertainment show.”

The fast-paced format is also being positioned to surface as a series, appearing on vidcassettes throughout the year and the albums selected to run in it can be tailored to the film’s demographic.

For example, albums from just the conglom’s jazz artists could be promoted on the front of the homevid of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” the Clint Eastwood film that relies heavy on jazz music to tell its story, or just rock acts could be featured on “Zero Effect,” which would appeal to the film’s core teen audience. But initially the program will feature a wide selection and run from June to September with the nine selected acts.

Placing the two-minute segment at the beginning of the tapes is also less expensive than buying TV spots and it complements the other marketing efforts set in motion at the label level, where execs work to promote the albums in many different venues.

The aesthetically pleasing spot features shots of the album covers which open to a music video.

In the Madonna part of the promo, the video of the first track “Frozen” from her “Ray of Light” disc plays while an ebullient voiceover offers a quick comment. Each of the other five albums are similarly unveiled until a tag line encourages viewers to check out a specially built Web site dubbed “Ear1.”

Albums on the promo reel include Alanis Davis’ debut, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s “Walking Into Clarksdale,” Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill’s “LSG,” Matchbox 20’s “Yourself or Someone Like You” and Eric Clapton’s “Pilgrim” featuring the album’s first single “My Father’s Eyes.”

Respondents to the pitch on the homevideos can obtain a CD sampler of the music by returning the coupon inside the rental cassettes, and paying a few bucks for shipping and handling.

Warner Home Video benefits from the tie-in because it offers consumers incentives to rent the homevideos that are part of the promotion, which in turn gets retailers to buy more copies of the tapes.

And the music group benefits because the promotion may motivate consumers to go out and buy the albums featured in the segment.

The in-store posters and point-of-purchase materials touting the artists in the “Inside Tracks” segment also create an awareness among consumers, who may not even rent the tape, but may go to the record section of the store and pick up an album.

“There’s something in it for everybody: the video retailer, the consumer, as well as Warner’s video and music groups,” said Tom Lezinski, senior veep of marketing for Warner Home Video. “When everyone participates and they feel they’re getting some value, it tends to work well.”

Despite the obvious synergy, the promotion was also put in motion because Daly and Semel oversee the two divisions, “it made it easier for everyone to work together to try and come up with something that would mutually help both divisions,” Lezinski said.

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