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Songs for Screens: How Pepsi’s New Sparkling Water Helped Max Frost Bubble Up Into the Mainstream

Songs For Screens is a Variety column written by Andrew Hampp, a VP at New York-based music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents and former branding correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.

Singer-songwriter Max Frost has scored several major synchs in his five-year career with Atlantic Records, including a major campaign for Beats in 2013 that sent his song “White Lies” to the top 30 of Billboard’s Triple-A airplay chart in 2014.

But it wasn’t until March 4 that Frost’s career was finally ready to graduate to its next level. That’s the night that PepsiCo premiered the first spot for its new sparkling water brand Bubly during the Academy Awards, which featured Frost’s new single “Good Morning” that Atlantic released at the same to coincide with the campaign’s launch.

Frost first received the news from Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, lead singer of Fitz & the Tantrums, who is also acting as executive producer of Frost’s forthcoming debut for Atlantic. “I was talking to him about a song concept about how anything can happen – one day you wake up and something could accidentally change your life,” Frost recalls. “And then he opens his phone and shows me this email and says ‘Watch this video’ with the Bubly spot on it. He says, ‘That’s Pepsi’s new drink.’ I was like, ‘Wow, is that a potential thing?’ And then he turns to me and goes, ‘It looks like it’s approved if we respond right now.’”

Frost and Fitz did indeed respond, and the reaction since has been swift. The spot has aired more than 7,500 times since late February, including a regulation rotation on “The Ellen Show,” and has generated more than $18 million in media exposure, according to TV-ad analytics firm iSpot.TV. Streams for the song sent “Good Morning” to Spotify’s US Viral 50 chart as well as influential playlists like Apple’s Future Hits and Spotify’s New Music Friday (in 11 countries). Atlantic will start working the song at radio in May.

ABC’s “American Idol” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and NBC’s “Today” have subsequently synched “Good Morning,” and Frost made his national TV debut on “Live With Kelly and Ryan” to perform the song. He’ll next appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” On the touring side, Frost was awaiting word for a slot on “one of the biggest tours I’ve ever been on” before a headline run of some of the largest venues he’s ever played in the fall.

Having spent five years building up a catalog while waiting in the major-label wings to release a full-length debut, the sudden turn of events is not lost on Frost. “This spot happening opened up the whole cycle of waking up this album to actual fruition,” he says. “You need the spark not only to get the label and everyone excited, but to take your first steps forward with something these days. It’s so difficult to take a new piece of content and present it to the world on just a basic platform. There’s so much music now, it’s so nice to have something like this that shows that there’s a value to this song, something that put sit in front of people without having to force it down their throats.”

The spot has also re-strengthened the music marketing muscle of PepsiCo, which in recent years has retooled its portfolio strategy to focus on healthier products like LIFEWTR (which featured a major license with John Legend in a 2017 Super Bowl spot) and Propel (which partnered with Jessie J on a custom synch in spring 2017.) Bubly is PepsiCo’s first major entrant in the flavored sparkling water category, designed to compete with hipster-favored products like LaCroix and Perrier with zero calories.

“Bubly is a brand that is all about making everyday life a little more playful, so we wanted to make sure that our TV campaign brought the brands personality to life in a fun and energetic way,” says Todd Kaplan, vice president of PepsiCo North America Beverages’ water portfolio.

Emma Quigley, PepsiCo’s head of music and entertainment, added that the song was chosen among hundreds of submissions for its natural fit with the brand’s identity. ‘“Good Morning’ is vibrant, upbeat and happy, it makes you feel good instantly, which are all key elements that reflect the brand’s identity – the track also has many different dimensions, which worked beautifully with the fast-paced needs of the creative.”

While both Frost and Bubly are open to extending their partnership beyond the TV campaign, the creative process behind “Good Morning” has also helped open another unexpected door for Frost. A still-untitled track he wrote with producer Augie Ray caught the ear of Roc Nation Records’ head of A&R Omar Grant, who put into motion an unlikely process that led to Frost flying to London to watch Elton John record vocals on it for a forthcoming DJ Mustard single.

“He said, ‘I think we want to get Elton John to sing on this’ and I didn’t believe him, so I said, ‘OK let’s get Michael Jackson,’” Frost says with a laugh. It wasn’t until he was in the studio with John asking him questions about his career and music that he fully believed what just transpired. “It was one of those weird moments where you feel like you’ve been to the top of the mountain to meet the guru then go back to your climb. It’s the coolest thing to ever really put on my resume.”

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