IDEA: To launch Justin Bieber’s second fragrance for girls, called Girlfriend, his manager’s marketing company could have spent millions on a traditional media rollout. “But why?” said Brad Haugen, CMO of Scooter Braun Projects. “Why not leverage what we have, which is a massive network of nearly 100 million fans?” Haugen, who once worked at BBH, hired the agency’s Los Angeles office, and together they put those fans to work. They had Bieber ask them to record themselves singing his hit song “Boyfriend,” with completely rewritten lyrics, including the word “girlfriend” instead of “boyfriend.” The best videos were then patched together for a 60-second spot that broke last Thursday on NBC, two days after his new album, Believe, dropped. BBH had earlier recounted Bieber’s rise to fame in a Google Chrome spot. That ad illustrated the crucial role of his fans; this one embodies it. “He’s an incredibly talented artist, but really, the way Justin was built up was on the back of creating real digital engagement with his fans,” Haugen said. “They feel like they discovered him. They feel like they’re the reason he is where he is. And he feels that way, too. They’re the backbone of everything we do.”
COPYWRITING: For BBH executive creative director Pelle Sjoenell, it wasn’t a typical spot to write. But it did need a narrative. “It’s tough to write a script like this. It’s a moldable piece of clay,” he said. “In the end we just celebrated what happened—Justin’s call-out to the fans, their reaction, their contribution. Then we announced the winner on TV.” From a straight branding point of view, the product name got plenty of play—the girls sing it over and over. “But it doesn’t feel like it’s advertising, and it shouldn’t,” said Sjoenell.
ART DIRECTION: It can also be tricky getting something good-looking from amateur video footage. “We did treat it. We worked with hues and things like type treatment to make it sit together a little better,” Sjoenell said. But actually, the somewhat grainy images make it feel more immediate and authentic. “We knew going into this that a lot of YouTube video would end up on national TV,” Sjoenell said. “And we make a very quick creative decision that that’s a good thing, that it should feel like YouTube. There’s something even more heartfelt about it, actually.” “It’s just raw,” added Haugen. “It’s what is actually being put out there. And to me, that’s a way better marketing tool.”
TALENT: Bieber is the spot’s big celebrity, of course, but the fans are the stars here. “The fan base is not only passionate, they’re also very creative,” said Sjoenell. “It was really tough [to choose the ones for the ad]. Great singers, great lyrics, great creativity, great spirit. I’m amazed at the level of talent out there.”
SOUND: The agency set up a branded Tumblr for the contest, which provided a track without Bieber’s vocals for the girls to sing along to. This made sure the submissions were all in the same key and had the same pace. The rest was just managing the transitions.
MEDIA: The spot aired during NBC’s broadcast of Justin Bieber: Around the World, his first network special. In a real-time Twitter tie-in, Bieber tweeted the name of the contest winner just as it was revealed in the TV spot. The campaign also pushed the #girlfriend hashtag on Twitter for several days, and made #girlfriend T-shirts. The social contest leading up to the TV spot also gave birth to an unexpected meme—one submission featuring a particularly wide-eyed girl went viral, as she was quickly dubbed the “Overly Attached Girlfriend.” And Bieber, of course, is his own media juggernaut. “He’s Elvis, the Beatles and Michael Jackson all together,” said Sjoenell. “He’s got a little bit of all three.” The new fragrance is part of the Give Back Brands portfolio. All proceeds from the sale of it will go to the Pencils of Promise and Make a Wish Foundation charities.