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Arts & Culture

Joel P. West Concert Brought To You By...Ford Motor Company?

 Joel P. West.
Joel P. West.
28th & NE Davis
A track from Joel P. West and The Tree Ring

Marketing campaigns and strategies continue to evolve in clever and subversive ways. Vigilance on the part of the consumer is in order, lest we all become corporate lemmings. A music video is no longer just a music video. It's now a product placement extravaganza. Most of us are hip to product placement at this point.
But what about brand advocacy?

Does the cool guy in the cubical next to you wax on about some new gadget? Don't be a sucker, he may be a node or a brand advocate or one of the many marketing terms given to people of influence within a certain demographic (those with lots of friends, social media skills, out every night, you get the idea) who've been hired by a company to promote a product.

No doubt, it's a smart marketing strategy. And when the node/brand advocate fully discloses their advocacy role, is there really any harm? I guess it depends on how much you want a sales pitch mixed with your entertainment or social conversation.

Ford Motor Company is using the brand advocate strategy to build word of mouth (WOM in marketing-speak) here in San Diego for its new Ford Fiesta car. Called the Ford Fiesta Movement, the company handpicked social media-savvy, "creative talent" in major cities across the US and gave them a car (to drive around for a span of time) and a bunch of money to host events.

In San Diego, they chose to partner with Dave Brown of Holiday Matinee (no stranger to brand strategy) and Zack Nielsen of Sezio, a newly-minted non-profit arts organization.

They chose wisely. Brown and Nielsen are active in what could be called a DIY art, design, and indie rock nexus here in San Diego. They both have popular (and interesting) websites and social media networks. On Brown's Holiday Matinee Twitter feed, his bio reads: "We're obsessed with good design, social responsibility and promoting creativity." To a Ford marketing exec combing San Diego's online world looking for a partner to reach a 30-something crowd, Brown's a perfect match.

As part of the Ford partnership, Brown and Nielsen will host an event a month for the next four months, mostly on Ford's dime. This Friday, the duo rented MCASD's Sherwood Auditorium to put on a concert featuring one of their favorite local bands, Joel P. West and The Tree Ring (tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door - proceeds will cover the cost after the Ford money runs out).

When told by Ford they could choose an unsigned band and throw a concert, Brown says (via email): "it took Zack and I all of 30 seconds to decide on Joel P. West. He's been a hidden gem amongst San Diego's buzzing music scene for the past several years."

West, a public school teacher by day, gathered some local traction in the music scene with his 2008 album "Dust Jacket," but is still relatively unknown. Friday's concert, along with rumors of a new album in the works, should help him break new ground. (I'm a big fan of a recent video from the band)

And then there's the possibility of Bonnaroo. Ford will choose one of the bands from the 20 different regions and fly the winner to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee to perform on a festival bill that boasts Stevie Wonder and Kings of Leon.

As consumers of live music, everyone should be used to the presence of the corporate. Ever see a show at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre? If you made the annual hipster pilgrimage to the indie rock Mecca that is Coachella, you were exposed to nine sponsors, including PlayStation 3 and Microsoft (Apple was too busy terrorizing tech bloggers).

So even if you're rolling up to MCASD in your fedora and thrift shirt, mustache fully groomed, to see the next buzzed-about indie band before everyone else, don't be surprised to see a Ford Fiesta parked out front. Your indie brand is being cleverly leveraged by Ford and that's the reality of world we live in. But even if you don't like the Fiesta, there's a good chance you'll like the band.