Marketing: Is David Bowie ad-bomb funky or an all-time low?


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Few acts unite popular musical opinion like David Bowie. Arguably, even more so than The Beatles. Even if Bowie’s new album The Next Day, which was released on Monday, doesn’t tickle your fancy like Low or Hunky Dory, it’d be a bold move to say you didn’t love at least some of his work. The man, frankly, unarguably, is a genius. Are we quorate on that? Right.

The marketing campaign for The Next Day has focused on the album’s self-reflective cover (a white square with the album’s name on top of the Heroes cover) and been almost as considered as Bowie’s music.

The white square devised by designer Jonathan Barnbrook has appeared over walls worldwide and paired with clever print adverts featuring lyrics from the lauded new LP. A guerrilla marketing campaign has also seen white “The Next Day” squares drawn on to floors and fans have taken the white squares to their hearts, creating their own versions and spreading them online.   

But despite all that, it must have been a bit grating for young bands such as Foals to see the adverts their label has spent lots of money on defaced by guerrilla ads. Whether it’s been placed on top of their own ads by fans or the marketing team of a rock star with an estimated wealth of £100m (we’re not pointing any fingers), you can’t help think it’d be better hijacking the ads of something more deserving, like Findus lasagnes.       

One poster in a central London location such as the one pictured would cost about £650 for two weeks (though, most likely bought in bulk and thus cheaper). Using some back-of-a-fag-packet calculations and working on the basis that the label would recover about 70 per cent from a £10 CD, the piggybacking of the space would cost Foals the equivalent of about 100 CDs (though the posters were apparently only put over posters that had reached the end of their allotted paid-for time slots). Equally, the associated cool might work in Foals’ favour. At the time of going to press, a request to find out if they were pleased or peeved hadn’t been returned.

Let’s assume pleased. Think of all the other acts touched by Bowie: Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, er, Bing Crosby … being acquainted with Bowie didn’t do them harm, did it? Maybe a support slot is on the cards as recompense?