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Sciontology – Advertising w/ Hip-Hop
Friday, May 09, 2008

Jeri Yoshizu
Scion’s Sales Promotions Manager

Hip-Hop and advertising have always had a tumultuous relationship. Yes the attention is nice, but do advertisers actually understand the culture, or are they just trying to use it to sell some burgers, t-shirts and candy bars? We see plenty of rappers in advertisements, and love that they get a check, but don’t always approve of what they’re selling. I remember it was only a year and a half ago the debate was about Common and his Gap ad. Was he a sellout? The answer was no, but as a culture we’re still on the lookout for how major companies are treating Hip-Hop. Scion is a company that has been working Hip-Hop into their ads, and cars, since their first day of existence and recently they jumped into the music distribution game. There’s one major question Hip-Hop fans have regarding all of Scion's actions, though; do they really care about the culture, or do they just see it as a marketing opportunity? I sat down with Scion’s sales promotions manager Jeri Yoshizu to find out.

Adam Bernard: First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I remember when Scion debuted. All your television advertisements had thumping basslines and city landscapes. Is it safe to say you’ve always been fans of Hip-Hop and working with Hip-Hop was a conscious decision?
Jeri Yoshizu: Yes, this was a conscious decision as at the time most automotive companies were staying away from Hip-Hop.

Adam Bernard: What are your feelings on the way Hip-Hop is used in advertising in general?
Jeri Yoshizu: Today simply using music in a commercial is not doing the community justice. A lot of corporations think that music is one dimensional, especially the genre of Hip-Hop. They don’t understand it is not a label or title, but a culture that is supported by many creative people. Because the media spins it in a one dimensional way it is perceived by the outside world as flat.

Adam Bernard: How are you going about making sure you don’t promulgate that “Hip-Hop is flat” idea?
Jeri Yoshizu: We have supported the community through music, dance, art, film and fashion. We produce events that have evolved the community’s perspective of corporate involvement, and we are always mindful of diluting the culture’s message.

Adam Bernard: Scion has also launched a record label. Tell me about the birth of the label and your hopes are for it.
Jeri Yoshizu: This “label,” and I use that term loosely as we sell cars, not tracks, as a primary revenue stream, was conceived to support artists that we work with. It has been around for three years and the first record was fulfilling the dream to have an artist’s music on vinyl. We have come a long way to where we are now, creating original music and bringing genres and people together in a creative space.

Adam Bernard: With major labels getting killed in album sales why get involved in the world of music distribution? Do you feel you can offer something unique that a traditional music label might be unable to?
Jeri Yoshizu: We have unique relationships to offer to our target market and we are not trying to sell 500k copies of a track. We are reasonable about our expectations and cater to those who are music enthusiasts rather than the mainstream music listener.

Adam Bernard: Have any artists you’ve spoken with expressed any concerns about being associated with a car company and the commercial aspect of that?
Jeri Yoshizu: No. All of the artists that we have worked with have been highly receptive of the opportunity with Scion. After their experience we often get feedback that working with other corporations has been quite different.

Adam Bernard: Finally, usually the product mentions in rap songs are of the uber opulent variety, or the rapper’s lame company. Do you think there will come a time when a rap artist will start looking to shout out a company that actually embraces Hip-Hop rather than giving free advertising to a company that doesn’t give a damn?
Jeri Yoshizu: I think they have already done it, like Kenneth Cole in the 90’s, or Louis Vuitton, or Cristal, but I think the commercialism will play itself out as there is little return. There is an actual report on brandchannel.com that shows the most called out brands (editor’s note: I’ve seen this report, but it’s damn near impossible to find on the site now). You do the math.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:57 AM  
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