The Sound of Color isn't your usual ad campaign. It doesn’t feature the company’s product, a slogan or even its name. It’s not on TV, radio or in newspapers and magazines. In fact, if you didn’t know that Sound of Color, the brainchild of Denver-based film and video production company Rehab, was paid for by the Gap, you wouldn’t know it was an ad campaign at all.
“Gap wanted to do something online that targeted people who spend a lot of their time discovering new and cool things online,” says Sean Leman of Rehab, which has worked with the Gap on several “buzz marketing” efforts. “They also wanted it to compliment their spring campaign.”
So with that freedom, Rehab commissioned five recording artists to write, record, mix and master a song inspired by a color – and in all of a month. Those songs were then made into music videos by five different creative production houses. And now, the videos are at www.soundofcolor.com, a website with no Gap branding. On March 15, the site, featuring original tracks from artists Dntel (red), Maria Digby (yellow), Swizz Beatz (green), the Blakes (blue), and the Raveonettes (black and white, which is technically two colors, but hey, it’s the Web) will go black and all rights to the music will revert to the artists. It’s a project that blends viral corporate marketing with artist patronage -- often mutually exclusive -- and to Leman's knowledge, nothing like has ever been done before.
So what do the parties get out of the arrangement? Leman won't disclose financial details, but says nobody got involved for the money. The filmmakers had limited budgets and ended up pouring their own funds into production solely for the chance to have the kind of ownership from start to finish of the creative process that isn't available on most commercial projects, he says.
Though in the end Sound of Color may be a one-and-done endeavor, with Gap waiting to gauge response, Leman takes the long view on this kind of connection between viral marketing and artist development. “If more brands saw the opportunities in becoming patrons to the arts,” he says, “there would be a real change in the kind of interesting content on the internet.” -- Sean Cronin