in Love With Elvis
STUART ELLIOTT, The New York Times
May 2, 2005
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.
billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood advertises
the "Elvis" mini-series on CBS.
may have left the building, but for Madison Avenue,
it is as if he were still inside, helping woo consumers
more ardently than ever.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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'.
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."
are some additional examples of current Presley projects:
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.
24-hour Presley music channel, called Elvis Radio, is among
the choices offered by Sirius Satellite Radio.
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."
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.
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.
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.
a perfect storm of Elvis," said Jennifer Burgess, marketing
director for Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis.
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,
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.
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.
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.
the re-emergence of Elvis Presley as a brand," Mr. Pollard
"He has always been popular, but there has been a resurgence
in attention to his music and his place in cultural history."
"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."
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.
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."
report similar examples of youthful appeal.
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
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.
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.
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."
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
planning another major network event in 2007," Mr. DiMuro
said, to mark the 30th anniversary of Presley's death.