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Songs for Screens: Watch Elton John and Boogie Host a Rap Battle in New Snickers Ad

Songs For Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former 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.

 Snickers’ long-running “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign has played host to a number of iconic celebrities over the better part of the last decade, from Betty White and The Brady Bunch to music legends Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli.

But for its first venture into hip-hop territory, the Mars candy brand has tapped rising Shady/Interscope Records recording artist Boogie and, as his unlikely hunger-plagued alter ego, Elton John for a spot that puts a surprising spin on rap battle culture. The global campaign, created with Snickers’ longtime ad agency BBDO, marks one of the first times the brand has bridged boomer culture with the youth market from a talent perspective.

“We’re always looking to reach the broadest swathe of the population, but we can’t ignore the growth of the Millennial and Gen Z audiences, and we recognize the role that music plays in their lives,” says Dale Green, global brand director of Snickers. “Elton holds the title of Billboard’s No. 1 male artist of all time, and is one of the most prolific and successful singer-songwriters of his generation. In pairing Elton and his 50-plus years of multi-genre hits with Boogie, a hip-hop artist on the brink of stardom in today’s most popular category, we can connect with our audiences over a shared love of music.”

And with John recently announcing his upcoming retirement from touring earlier this year, the opportunity for the brand to celebrate his legacy couldn’t have been more timely. Not only does John perform his 1976 hit “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,” he even got to showcase his longtime support of upcoming artists by playing a hands-on role in selecting the additional talent featured in the Snickers spot.

“We worked with the talent team and Boogie to put together a virtual audition,” says Amir Kashani, principal at media, brand and entertainment agency Salt + Vinegar, who brokered the Snickers deal on behalf of Boogie. “He dropped a freestyle over FaceTime and iPhone videos — and the choice really came down to the director and Sir Elton on whom to cast.”

Also warming to Boogie was the commercial’s director Andreas Nilsson, a veteran of music videos for artists like David Guetta and 2 Chainz and some of the most memorable music/brand commercial hybrids in recent years for KFC and Skittles. Boogie vibed so well with the director that Nilsson was able to repurpose parts of the Snickers set the day after the Elton John shoot for a music video for Boogie’s newly released track “Déjà Vu.” The clip dropped Wednesday (August 29), and teases a new project set for later this year.

“Working with Andreas was a blessing,” says Boogie. “This was in a way my acting debut and he made that transition so easy… Connecting with Elton John was also huge. His musical knowledge is crazy, he’s super in tune with current hip-hop.”

Since the first “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry Campaign” aired in 2010, the campaign has expanded to 80 markets around the world, while an offshoot campaign, 2017’s “Hungerithm,” took home five Gold Cannes Lions. So Green is well aware of the stakes to continue the campaign’s legacy by employing a music-focused approach.

“Authenticity is key – Snickers is famous for being real, substantial, funny and down-to-earth,” Green says. “We needed to ensure that spirit came through here because that’s where the greatest opportunity for humor lies: in juxtaposing the well-known celebrities with situations that are unexpected, yet real. We sought an artist with global recognition given the campaign will be shared around the world, and also wanted to tap into a music genre with genuine appeal among Millennial and Gen Z audiences.”




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