Urban Translation

Posted on June 25, 2008 by

Marketing wise, there’s an interesting example in Steve Stoute, the founder of Translation, a company that he sold half of to Interpublic for 15 Million Dollars last year. I could comment for a while in this post about this guy’s brilliance. A former music executive, most people know Stoute from his melee with Sean “Puff Daddy-P.Diddy-Diddy” Combs back in 1999 when he was managing hip hop artist Nas. What is Translation? It’s a company, in it’s own words, that connects Fortune 500 companies with the urban and youth demographic. It’s not easy to do this as any communications executive might tell you. Translation was contracted by General Motors to connect with urban audiences and realize the equity in some of their car models with the urban demographic. He did a lot more than that. He came up with the concept of those Chevy ads you may have seen in Rolling Stone or Spin, citing the multiple songs spanning many genres of music mentioning GM vehicles. Word is that Stoute personally met with Rick Wagoner and laid out for him that if a dollar figure would be put to that kind of cultural worth, it would be in the billions. Well it worked out. Apparently no one at GM had any idea of just exactly how many songs there were out there that mentioned one of their products. His most visible success was getting Justin Timberlake involved with McDonald’s and contributing to the “I’m Lovin’ It” frenzy. He hooked Jay-Z and Gwen Stefani up with Hewlett Packard, who at the time (a couple of years ago) were desperate to get their new breed of laptops noticed by the student and teenage market. It’s since worked. Hewlett Packard unseated Dell, and those Jay-Z, Vera Wang, and Gwen Stefani HP laptops ads citing the computer as “Personal” again have had a tremendous effect on profits. Stoute is “translating” urbanspeak to the corporate heads, and conveying their marketing message back to the targeted market in a way that lends credibility and demands attention. His firm acts a conduit between these two divides. It doesn’t always work however…he attempted to persuade Coors to rebrand one of America’s most popular beers into more of a premium lager, something that they found compelling, but too far fetched. The contacts he made at Interscope Records probably are helping in terms of his access to some of these music icons. How many people can count Jay-Z, Jimmy Iovine, and Damon Dash on their Blackberries?

Stoute has reteamed with Jay-Z as a business partner in bringing Translation into the ad world now. Officially redubbed, “Translation Advertising”, the duo plan on growing the concept as Stoute’s track record has attracted a significant amount of attention. Cool stuff.

Check out this article in Business Week.

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