CAMPAIGNS: DKC scores huge hit with efforts to push Elvis album

PR Team: BMG (New York) and Dan Klores Communications (New York) Campaign: Elvis 30 #1 Hits album release Time Frame: January-December 2002 Budget: $250,000

PR Team: BMG (New York) and Dan Klores Communications (New York) Campaign: Elvis 30 #1 Hits album release Time Frame: January-December 2002 Budget: $250,000

Elvis Presley may still be The King, but having left the building a quarter-century ago, he'd lost some of his luster when BMG, which owns the Elvis catalogue, decided to release a remixed best-of album on its RCA Records label to commemorate Elvis' departure. BMG and its PR agency, Dan Klores Communications, had to stand out from the onslaught of commemorative coverage, promoting an artist who wasn't available for interviews and an album that wasn't hitting stores until late September - more than a month after the August 16 anniversary of Elvis' death. Because BMG execs wanted to surprise reviewers and consumers with the product, the album's publicists couldn't even offer news media the usual amenities, like an album cover, track listings, or liner notes. "We knew the eyes of the world would be on Elvis," says Nathaniel Brown, BMG senior director of corporate communications. "So the question was, how do we reposition Elvis while taking advantage of that opportunity?" Strategy BMG wanted to resurrect the iconography of a young, dynamic Elvis, rather than the more mature, often buffoonish caricature associated with his later career. This would broaden the album's appeal beyond the cult of devoted fans, and reach younger listeners as well. "We had to deal with an image that was tremendously exposed," says DKC's Susan Makarichev, who headed the campaign. "There was very little mystery left. And frankly, we were somewhat challenged in trying to revive an iconic image that, in years past, has probably not enjoyed the best PR. We wanted to bring it back to the heart of the matter that's always lost: the music and the voice." The team hoped to front-load media attention around the release, and keep the buzz going with a series of "spikes," or angles that news media could latch onto. The idea was to begin with the business story of the impending Elvis-mania, and move on to a more consumer-oriented campaign using tie-ins and working the release into the broader spate of coverage. Tactics Initial efforts targeted print media, including USA Today and Billboard. To reach younger audiences, the record label leveraged a licensing deal with the Disney film Lilo & Stitch, which not only includes six songs from the album, but features a young heroine obsessed with Elvis. The effort got an early and unexpected boost from a Nike ad featuring an up-tempo remix of the lesser-known Elvis classic A Little Less Conversation. The ad received widespread international attention, as it ran during the World Cup. RCA hurriedly added the track to the album and released it as a single, and it shot to the number-one spot on the US charts. To ensure coverage in the run-up to the anniversary, BMG and DKC offered media tours of the recording studios where the album was being remixed, so that reporters could see the technicians at work and take footage. On September 24, a launch event featuring Priscilla Presley was held at New York's Hard Rock Cafe. It was attended by the stars of American Idol, along with celebrities such as country musician Travis Tritt and Broadway star Heather Headley. Results Segments on the album appeared on all three network nightly news shows and morning shows, as well as on CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Charlie Rose. Cover stories mentioning the album appeared in USA Weekend and TV Guide, along with large features in Newsweek, US News & World Report, Esquire, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, LA Times, AP, and Reuters. The album debuted at the top spot in 18 countries, with US sales for the first week alone totaling more than 500,000. It held the top spot for three weeks before settling in the top 10, where it remained until last week. The album has sold almost 7 million copies worldwide. Future An hour-long TV tribute, Elvis Lives, will air on NBC later this month. The special features top pop music artists such as Bono, No Doubt, and Britney Spears, and will include performances from contemporary artists of four songs from Elvis 30 #1 Hits.

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