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Inside the OK Go / State Farm Deal

Inside the OK Go / State Farm Deal

Helen Walters / Brand New Day

What do trendy musicians OK Go have in common with insurance mega-giant State Farm? Turns out, more than “not much”. But this is more than just another version of the “corporate brand meets hipsters, falls in love” story we know so well. Rather, this highlights how proactive creative types are looking beyond traditional parameters to get support for their work. And brands are biting.

In this case, State Farm paid to have a place at the creative development table as the video for the song This Too Shall Pass was storyboarded. The result: a walk-on part in the delightfully chaotic promo, embedded below—note the State Farm van that literally kicks things off and the State Farm teddybear, seen fleetingly. The insurer gets a shout out screen at the end of the video: “OK Go Thanks State Farm for making this video possible”. And State Farm paid an undisclosed sum to ensure that fans can embed the YouTube video of the song on their own sites.

This is a bigger deal than you might imagine, one that points to the ongoing turmoil within the music industry. As it happens, label EMI disabled the embed function on OK Go’s breakout video hit, Here It Goes Again, which involved the musicians cavorting on treadmills and which has been viewed some fifty million times on YouTube. As the band’s lead singer Damian Kulash outlined in a February 19th New York Times op ed piece this decision was disastrous.

“This isn’t how the Internet works. Viral content doesn’t spread just from primary sources like YouTube or Flickr. Blogs, Web sites and video aggregators serve as cultural curators, daily collecting the items that will interest their audiences the most. By ignoring the power of these tastemakers, our record company is cutting off its nose to spite its face.”

Todd Fischer, manager of national sponsorships at the Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm, was keen to assert that EMI had been “at the table” throughout the negotiation process on this latest video, which started back in fall of last year. But clearly he’s also more than happy that State Farm gets to play the part of forward-thinking innovator, working to supply fans with what they really want and need (the ability to take the video and include it on their own sites). In supporting a band that epitomizes the DIY, can-do, I’ll-take-it-and-I’ll-mash-it attitude of contemporary culture, the insurer taps into a young audience in a cool, appropriate way. The band, meanwhile, gets to make another fantastic video, harness buzz and win over new fans: the film had nearly 1.4 million views in less than 48 hours.