The social media story of Lady Gaga is pretty phenomenal. The latest chapter is her new video “Telephone,” which is a whirlwind of amazing viral potential, product placement, skin, hair, clothes, and camp references. Whether you love it or hate it, chances are you’ll watch it.
Warning: the video may be NSFW, and this post may not be either, as it describes some of the themes of the video.
Lady Gaga is a digital native, and it shows in how she manages her live performances, her videos, and her product partnerships. She has built a global brand in record time, using social strategies to push herself into the mainstream very quickly. She has inked endorsements and custom product development with large brands in record time.
And her “Telephone” video shows just how media savvy she is.
First, the plot of the video is 60s-era exploitation camp, specifically Ross Meyer’s Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!. In fact, it could be the sequel to FPKK in that the video starts with Gaga going to prison, then getting bailed out by Beyonce. Then, the two of them go on a revenge rampage.
60s exploitation film is great source material right now, as it deals with the subject of alienation and divorce from society. As the most grinding recession in three generations starts to lift, ever so slowly, and employment rates for the under-25 crowd hover just under 50%, youth feel connected to each other, but detached from society.
Score one for Gaga.
There are a number of over-the-top 60s fashion references, too. From leopard-print catsuits, to swoopy cowgirl veils, the past is on display. But, of course, Gaga doesn’t stop there, but adds her art-house fashion sensibility, and brings Beyonce along for the ride. From smoking-cigarette sunglasses to a cross between a Simply Irrestistible girl and Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington, she is Queen Bitch of the jail yard. And, she drives the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (in fact, the actual one, on loan from Quentin Tarantino), another exploitation film.
Finally, she is completely shameless in the product placement in this video. This is the first time I have ever seen product placement in a music video (there have been paid endorsement references in some rap songs, though these are in the lyrics). And some of them are not sexy brands, but they see the ability of Gaga to move people to take some action. Here’s a list of brands that make an appearance in “Telephone”:
- Virgin Mobile: One of several telephones that makes an appearance in the namesake video
- heartbeat Headphones by Monster: These are designed by Gaga, and get prime placement, but no logo
- Diet Coke: Any type of soda can could have been hair curlers, so this could only have been intentional
- Plenty of Fish: The prison guard gets a long sequence searching for an online match on this popular dating site
- Polariod: Gaga takes instant photos of Beyonce, then later on they get a big logo placement against a writhing Gaga.
- Coors Light: A neon sign in the bar where some of the action takes place
- Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip: There’s a long dance sequence of Gaga making a sandwich. I’m not making that up.
Gaga’s embrace of brands is the most profound development for marketers. If the production cost of this video was over $500,000, I would be surprised. That means Gaga probably got the entire video paid for by these sponsors, with no intermediation. If you are a television station, those are dollars that are shifting from your airtime to Gaga’s expense line item. By going direct to the brands, musicians are flexing their 360 degree deals with record labels, and the labels have turned into marketing matchmakers. All without the need of support from either online or TV channels. After all, the end result is posted to Vevo (Interscope’s label website), and cross posted to YouTube – all for free.
The result: over 30 million views in the 5 days since the video launched. That’s 3 times the audience of the number one show on television. Consider the implication of this – how much do 30 seconds during American Idol cost? Likely more than the entire budget of Gaga’s video.
So, if you’re not shifting your channel strategy drastically in the next budget planning cycle, I guarantee you are throwing money away.
And here is the video (clean version) for your perusal (or, if you prefer, the explicit version):