"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






Falling in Love With Elvis

By STUART ELLIOTT, The New York Times

Published: May 2, 2005

A billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood advertises the "Elvis" mini-series on CBS.

ELVIS may have left the building, but for Madison Avenue, it is as if he were still inside, helping woo consumers more ardently than ever.

A multimedia marketing blitz with a budget estimated at $10 million to $20 million is under way to promote a new round of entertainment programming about Elvis Presley.

The CBS division of Viacom has declared next week "Elvis Week," in hopes of luring viewers to watch two biographical shows, one fictionalized, the other factual, that run a total of six hours. CBS has a lengthy list of marketing partners to pitch the shows, "Elvis," a mini-series starting this Sunday, and "Elvis by the Presleys," a documentary, on May 13.

Among the partners are American Airlines, part of the AMR Corporation, which will run a Presley program during its in-flight entertainment and distribute Presley CD samplers to passengers; Crown Publishers, part of the Random House division of Bertelsmann, which will release a book, also titled "Elvis by the Presleys"; and People magazine, part of the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner, which will run in its May 9 issue an insert carrying the headline "The King is Hear." When opened, the insert plays a snippet of "Blue Suede Shoes" and a commercial for the TV shows.

Other partners are Presley's music label, Sony BMG, owned by Bertelsmann and the Sony Corporation of America; the quiz show "Jeopardy," owned by Sony, which will feature an "Elvis" category during its show Friday; TV Guide, part of Gemstar-TV Guide International; and Web sites like citysearch.com, with a promotion called "Elvis Was Here," as well as elvis.com and yahoo.com.

There will also be copious cross-promotion by Viacom siblings including CMT, Infinity billboards and radio stations, MTV, Spike, TV Land and VH1. "It's the biggest thing we've got going for the May sweeps," said George F. Schweitzer, president of the CBS Marketing Group unit of CBS in New York.

His reference was to a month in which the broadcast networks typically stuff their schedules full of special programs to stimulate ratings gains as the TV season concludes. Indeed, almost 28 years after his death, interest in Presley seems bigger among advertisers, agencies and media companies than it was during his life.

His growing appeal is emblematic of the increasing interest in deceased celebrities as endorsers because their fame often outshines that of today's stars - and it typically costs less to use their images than their contemporary counterparts'.

Presley, in fact, topped the fourth annual list of top-earning dead celebrities released last October by Forbes magazine, with annual revenue of $40 million, compared with $35 million for No. 2, Charles M. Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts," and $23 million for J. R. R. Tolkien, author of "Lord of the Rings."

Here are some additional examples of current Presley projects:

  • A musical inspired by Presley, "All Shook Up," opened March 24 on Broadway, featuring live performances of 25 tunes he originally sang. The cast recording, on Sony BMG, is due in stores on May 31.
  • A 24-hour Presley music channel, called Elvis Radio, is among the choices offered by Sirius Satellite Radio.
  • Presley will be a character in a biographical film about Johnny Cash, "Walk the Line," scheduled to be released on Nov. 18 by the 20th Century Fox division of the News Corporation. Presley will be played by a young singer, Tyler Hilton, who warmed up by performing two Presley songs last month at the wedding of his cast mates Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush from the WB series "One Tree Hill."
  • Presley is a central part of a musical celebration of the 100th anniversary of Las Vegas, with "Elvis: Live from Las Vegas" to be released May 10 on a new label, Las Vegas Centennial Records, by EMI Music Marketing, part of the EMI Group.
  • The same day, Sony BMG is to release a two-CD set of music from "Elvis by the Presleys," which features his wife, Priscilla, and his daughter, Lisa Marie.
  • The first commercials to encourage tourists to visit Presley's Graceland home in Memphis began appearing last month on national television. The spots, created by Thompson & Company in Memphis, carry the theme "Graceland. Where Elvis lives." Note the present tense.

"It's a perfect storm of Elvis," said Jennifer Burgess, marketing director for Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis.

An 85 percent stake in the company, which controls the rights to the Presley image, likeness and name, was recently acquired from the Presley heirs by the entrepreneur Robert F. X. Sillerman; he is making it a centerpiece of his new entertainment firm, CKX.

Some elements of this most recent Presley blitz were timed to appear all at once, Ms. Burgess said, while others are turning up around the same time by coincidence.

The CBS shows were once scheduled for last November, Mr. Schweitzer said, and Jonathan Pollard, the lead producer of "All Shook Up," said his musical had been in development for five years.

But Presley's return to prominence at this time is no accident, many executives say. It has been building for the last three years, as shown by the success of the compilation CD "30 No. 1 Hits," as well as by commercials for brands like Nike and movies like "Lilo and Stitch," which used original or remixed versions of Presley songs.

"It's the re-emergence of Elvis Presley as a brand," Mr. Pollard said.

"He has always been popular, but there has been a resurgence in attention to his music and his place in cultural history."

Presley "resonates today because he was a forerunner, a catalyst for change and larger than life," Mr. Pollard said. "And when you look for icons, you expect them to be larger than life."

The renewed interest in Presley is partly due to assiduous efforts by Elvis Presley Enterprises to introduce him to consumers who grew up after the 1960's and 1970's. The goal is to help ensure a continuous revenue stream as older fans lose interest or, um, are returned to sender.

"We've worked hard to present him as contemporary and timeless and it's paying off," Ms. Burgess said. "Our demographics show 80 percent of the visitors to Graceland are under 49."

Others report similar examples of youthful appeal.

"There's a whole generation of new fans," said Chuck Cordray, senior vice president for consumer marketing at TV Guide in New York. "Three of the four times we ran Elvis on the cover in the last five years, those were the best-selling covers of the year."

As part of the CBS promotion, mini-CD's of a previously unreleased version of a Presley tune, "Young and Beautiful," will be attached to millions of covers of the May 8 issue of TV Guide, which goes on sale Thursday.

There are four covers, each bearing a Presley likeness from a different year from 1955 to 1968, and a "Discover Elvis" sweepstakes online (tvguide.com/elviscbs), co-sponsored by "The Early Show" on CBS.

There are those who would perceive all this as commercial exploitation, said Joe DiMuro, executive vice president for Sony BMG Strategic Marketing in New York, who acknowledged that "there is a business here, a solid business."

"But we are the home of Elvis Presley," he added, "and it's up to us to find new and innovative ways to keep the legacy going." What is next for the hardest-working deceased man in show business?

"We're planning another major network event in 2007," Mr. DiMuro said, to mark the 30th anniversary of Presley's death.








VCD: Joe Esposito's Home Videos of Elvis
Book: Complete Guide to Elvis Presley
CD: Now What (Lisa Presley)
Concert: Greg Page, Mick Gerace & TCB Band in Australia
CD: In The King's Shadow
CD: Lust, Elvis
Show: All Shook Up
CD: Elvis The Cover-Up
Magazine: Elvis The Man & His Music
VCD: Adios The Last Show
DVD: Elvis In Concert (3 hour version)
"Orion" gunned down!
Elvis Is Back
Elvis - Hero with 1000 faces
Elvis Film Guide
Elvis & the Lansky Brothers
Was there anything before Elvis?
Elvis rules on television!
Beware of fake bootlegs!
Elvis & other major artists miss out on Grammy Awards
It's time for an "Elvis' Greatest Hits" DVD!
Thank God 1981 sale of EPE didn't happen
Sale of EPE - good or bad?
How did Elvis die?
Elvis Film Bio
Lisa Presley on Larry King Show
Tony Joe White
Stanley Oberst
Bud Glass (part 2)
Bud Glass
Chris Lambeth
Mick Gerace
Greg Page
Bill Burk
Lisa Presley on EPE sale
Larry King transcipt
Red & Sonny West
Paul Simpson
Ed Bonja (Part 2)
Ernst Jorgensen
Phil Aitcheson (Presley Commission)
Did you miss?
Online Elvis Symposium
All about Lisa Presley
All about Graceland
FTD review- Elvis: New Year's Eve
DVD Review: Elvis Presley The Last 24 Hours
Elvis vs. Bing: who really was The King?