Grammy’s: Unleash

Many may not remember that just seven years ago the music industry and Hollywood press had all but left the Grammys for dead. Panned as the Grannys, the show had followed the path of Oldsmobile and Ovaltine pandering to an aging viewer base and losing relevancy in a changing world. Onstage performances were retrospective rather than contemporary with a promotional message that simply stated, “Tune in. It’s going to be great!”

When a concerted effort was made to overhaul the content of the broadcast in 2008, The Recording Academy and CBS brought in TBWA/Chiat/Day to develop communications that would drive younger viewers back to the show. The work we developed cast the rising stars of the music world and leveraged the latest in special effects to emphasize how the show had changed and who you would see performing.


All of this lead to a great success story; the Grammys has received it’s highest ratings among core audiences in decades and now regularly receives more social buzz than any other broadcast short of the Super Bowl. But upon reflection, it seemed our efforts at modernizing the broadcast and it’s branding had been largely superficial. The strategic insights that had driven past campaigns were focused either on the fan’s role in making artists successful or the artist’s passion in creating great music. Combined, these insights recognized there were two protagonists in the play but failed to find and leverage the bond that connected them together. 



And all past strategies used the word “celebrate”. There should be a fine for that. But I digress…

Finding the common bond between artist and fan – or uncovering the truth for why we all love music and may have reason to watch an award show about it – was my challenge. Through interviews, investigation and most of all instinct, we landed on a place that had creative legs:





I must say I’m rather pleased that the strategic ramp line developed for this campaign was so dead on that it made its way into the work as a tagline.

This idea of music “unleashing us” spread into every aspect of Grammys marketing and promotions. Broadcast spots captured an array of emotions that are unleashed by music, bite-sized content created for and socialized on Facebook/Instagram drove participation among our core audience, and Macklemore graced us with an afternoon of his time in New York to “unleash” a busload of commuters. Most importantly, CBS finally had this to say about our work: It took you a few years but you finally nailed it. And with that, this year’s broadcast will be incorporating major elements of our campaign into the broadcast for the first time.

Accolades are already coming in with critics stating that, for the first time, we’ve sought to not simply over-stimulate viewers into watching but rather pulled at their heartstrings. I’m hopeful this strategy is more than just an insight for the 56th Grammys. It certainly has the depth and emotional resonance to remain their brand platform for years to come.

Print example:


TV Examples:

LINK – Drive


LINK – Roar


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