Marketing directors ‘buy into talent like airspace’ - Ministry of Sound’s Matthew Kershaw

Marketing directors are too often “buying into talent like they might buy into airspace”, according to Ministry of Sound marketing director Matthew Kershaw, who urged brands to approach partnerships with caution.

Speaking today on a panel at Advertising Week Europe about what brands can learn from DJs, Kershaw said that inking brand partnerships with musical talent is a “difficult space” to crack with authenticity intact.

“When it works well is when there is an overlap of core values,” he said. “It’s a very common thing for marketing directors to think they are buying into talent in the same way they might buy into TV airspace.

“The reality is that it's not true – it’s much more effective when there is a true partnership and a longer relationship but that’s not always easy to come by.

Kershaw added that the relationship also works the other way around, with artists sometimes seeing brands as “cash cows” to fund appearances or albums.

The panel, which also featured Radio DJ Annie Mac, David Rodigan, BBC Radio 1Xtra / Radio 2 DJ and Garry Blackburn managing director of talent agency Anglo Management, touched upon relevancy and appealing to a core audience as a brand matures.

Addressing the audience via video link, DJ Pete Tong attributed his success of appealing to a young audience to his ability to continuously reinvent himself.

“At one point in your life you are younger than them and then you become older than them and if you keep going you get further away from your core audience, so it's quite important to reinvent yourself.

“I’ve definitely been strategic about that in terms of the kind of clubs, festivals and events I play at, the kind of albums I put out and the stuff I do on the radio so I definitely think about that.”

Blackburn, who manages Tong, revealed that it took the pair “five or six” years to adopt the branding of ‘It’s all gone Pete Tong’ (following the 2005 film) as they didn’t want to associate the DJ’s brand with a phrase that means wrong.

However once they realised that the “modern lexicon” was building Tong’s success they both embraced it.

“We were steering away from it then we thought we were crazy that’s how everybody knows Pete so we might as well start using it.”

Keeping close to an audience was a theme that emerged in the discussion and Mac revealed her strategy for pushing out Annie Mac Presents, the DJ’s popular nightlife brand.

“I voluntarily go on Snapchat,” she said. “I guess from a brand’s perspective I create content on a daily basis. The thing about Annie Mac Presents is that it is my name and it is a reflection of my personality. One of the most important things that I do is to facilitate that so everything that you see, be it the flyers or the overall aesthetic and look of brand, is a reflection of my personality.”

“Positioning is everything and perception is everything. It’s so important to have consistency in what you do,” she added.

In a similar vein Kershaw said that staying close to the audience is the one thing brands can “definitely learn from” and urged them to not be “aloof in their ivory tower”.

Mac also divulged the thinking behind former Radio 1 colleague and DJ Zane Lowe’s move to Apple and said that he left the station “to be global”.

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