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Insert Monáe/Money Pun Here: Samsung’s Electric Integration

By Diane Knoepke Jul 31, 2014

Insert Monáe/Money Pun Here: Samsung’s Electric Integration

R&B/Hip-Hop artist and fashion influencer Janelle Monáe  released her “Electric Lady” video yesterday. The video is fun, stylish, on-brand and authentic to Ms. Monáe, and has more cameos than an Andy Samberg-hosted episode of SNL. The video’s timing is a bit unexpected, however, as the song was released on an album of the same name back in September of 2013.

Some voices around the music industry are noting that time gap alongside remarks around Samsung’s product placement, which essentially opens the video. Per Pop Culture Spin, “for an album (and song) that have been around for a minute, it’s pretty interesting that there’s only now a video for Janelle Monáe‘s ‘Electric Lady.’ But if you check out all of the digital product placement in the first 30 seconds of the video, it wouldn’t be outlandish to assume the dual-purpose of using the term “Electric” here (what’s up, Samsung).”

Samsung’s Gear 2 and Galaxy S5 do indeed play a starring role in the video’s opening, where Ms. Monáe stops to take a picture of her girlfriends, using her Gear 2 smartwatch, and then she shows the photo to her friends on the Galaxy S5 screen. It is a lot of product placement, it is blatant and heavy-handed, and I don’t mind it. It’s smart because, in addition to being those things, it is true to all brands involved, it is realistic to the video’s storyline, and it makes both the product and Ms. Monáe look cool (not that they need help). The acting is somewhat clunky in the Samsung segment, especially when compared to how effervescent the rest of the video is, but I do not think that does any real damage.

Successful product integration typically has one or both of the following two things going for it—and Samsung is hitting both here.

  1. It enhances the content by (a) upping the authenticity of the environment being portrayed (think billboards in gaming virtual worlds and stadium signage in sports movies), (b) raising the cool factor, and/or (c) being a vehicle to advance the storyline. If we were living in the “Electric Lady” video, you better believe we would be snapping photos of our friends, which they would want to check out prior to our posting them on social media. And the Gear 2 plays very well on the cool factor in the video.
  2. It is in on the joke. RuPaul’s Drag Race and Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee have both done this very well and in ways that their most loyal fans, those who “get it,” actually look forward to the branded moments. While the Samsung product placement is not a joke in the “Electric Lady” video, it is at least a bit of a wink, as Pop Culture Spin noted in the comment above. The retro-futuristic vibe of the video (she puts in an 8-track tape immediately after using her smartphone), and of course the use of the word “electric” throughout, provides Samsung with a new spin on the countless wearable tech comparisons to throwback fantasy worlds (here’s a fun list from BrandRepublic).

Certainly the jury’s still out over whether the intended audiences will see Samsung as a nuisance or enhancement to the video, but my bet is that it will be neutral at worst. In checking out several music, culture and technology sites for commentary today, there is a definite range of opinions, from positive to neutral to negative. Notice how nobody argues with the cool factor. Here are a few snippets:

From Vibe: “overly conspicuous (but still pretty cool) Samsung product placement (gotta get one of those Gear watches ASAP!)”

From Vulture: “The video features Monae as a sorority girl at one of the swankiest Greek-life parties we've ever seen, complete with towers of cupcakes, a marching band, and some sort of video-conference center featuring celeb pals — including Kimbra, Estelle, and T-Boz — on screens that we assume are provided by Samsung (there is a lot of Samsung product placement in this video).”

From Paste: “Sure, there is an obvious plug for Samsung devices, but the rest of the video features Monáe enjoying herself at a sorority party for the Electro Phi Betas.”

From Connectedly: We're pretty much over Samsung product placement at this point, but it's still great to see some wearable love in something like this, and the song isn't too shabby either.”

From 140 Luxury: Before we get into the talented Janelle, shout out  Samsung for making sure we see what that Samsung smart watch going to be like.

From HitFix:

We’ll be back with a review of Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady” video after this brief commercial for Samsung.

I know that artists and labels want help underwriting the cost of videos these days and people under 20 may not even care that they are getting marketed to every minute, but when Monae’s otherwise very fun video for “Electric Lady” opens with her pausing to show off Samsung Galaxy’s Gear Watch, it instantly takes me out of the song, which I don’t think is the point.

Having said that, once Monae does her part to shill for Samsung, she joins her sorority sisters in what has to be the most fun sorority ever, Electro Phi Betas, for a fun house party. There’s great dancing, singing, and some fun guest stars, including T.I., Estelle, Monica, T-Boz, Esperanza Spalding and Kimbra.

From Under the Gun: Unfortunately, the video opens with a 1-minute skit and blatant Samsung advertisement that, frankly, is a bit of a turn-off. A combination of terrible acting, glaring overexposure, and poorly-recorded audio is capped with a glamorous demonstration of the camera features on Samsung’s latest Smartwatch and a shot of one of their phones.

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