Universal Music Starts Label With Evian Babies Ad Agency

  • Pop Records part of growing partnership between bands, brands
  • New label Pop Records in discussions with 3-4 artists

Universal Music, which counts Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj among its artists, is starting a new record label with the Havas SA-owned ad agency that gave the world dancing babies on rollerskates in an ad for Evian mineral water.

The new label, Pop Records, is set to be announced by Vivendi SA’s Universal and Havas’s BETC agency on Thursday. Paris-based Pop Records will be the sixth music label inside Universal Music’s Polydor Records, and aims to sign its first artists by the end of the year.

“Having an advertising agency involved will add to our marketing strength,” said Nicolas Pellet, marketing director at Polydor. “The editorial line of the label will be in their hands.”

Pop Records is the next step in a growing partnership between brands and bands, which has seen once-reluctant artists sign up to work with companies from Bacardi to BMW. Corporate sponsorships are providing much-needed funds to record companies as they cut marketing budgets and figure out how to make money from music streaming services like Spotify.

North American-based companies alone will spend a record $1.4 billion on music sponsorships this year, up 4.8 percent from 2014, according to the IEG Sponsorship report.

Havas shares were 0.1 percent higher at 7.18 euros as of 9:21 a.m. in Paris. The French ad company also said Thursday it was in talks to buy FullSix, a Paris-based digital communications agency. The deal for FullSix, which employs more than 600 people, is expected to close next month, Havas said in a statement.

Pop Records will initially have five staff members, including Fabrice Brovelli, vice president at BETC, and Christophe Caurret, the agency’s creative music director. Both have been at the forefront of collaborations with the music industry on ads that paired Air France with music from the Chemical Brothers, Giorgio Armani with La Roux and Evian with Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

“A modern ad agency should be able to offer a lot more than just consulting and traditional campaigns,” said Remi Babinet, BETC’s co-founder. “It should be a media company, a producer and an audience generator in itself.”

Evian’s rollerskating babies, which set a Guinness record back in 2009 for the most-viewed online ad, have moved on and appeared in a number of campaigns, including one where adults saw themselves as infants in the mirror and another that featured a dancing baby Spiderman.

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