August 16, 2002, would be the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death and virtually every major music and entertainment company—from Disney Entertainment to the top broadcast networks to Graceland’s nine-day commemoration—would be gearing up for multi-million dollar Elvis tributes and related product launches. While a few campaigns would start hitting in Spring 2002, “Elvis-mania” would culminate in a ten-day period around the mid-August milestone.
One exception, however, would be the late-September release of RCA Record’s “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits.” This CD—a collection of thirty top Elvis singles—would be the centerpiece of a multi-integrated Bertelsmann (BMG) Elvis Campaign that would also include the launch of books and additional publications from BMG’s Random House and Gruner + Jahr.
DKC faced the challenge of creating a communications campaign that would break through the inevitable clutter of activities and products surrounding the 25th anniversary allowing the “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” to gain the media exposure it deserved. The campaign had to rise to the top and suspend interest and demand for “things Elvis” well into the fourth quarter.
Additionally, the campaign needed to convince an older generation to purchase yet another Elvis compilation record (nine new records have been released in the past eight years with two releases October 2002) while dispelling a less then flattering image held by today’s youth. Further, all this had to be executed without the presence of the star, bandmates or even a family spokesperson and without the benefit of releasing album art, liner notes, track listings, full music and other album elements to the media in advance of the release month.
The planning of the communications program was broken down into three stages:
· Stage 1: (December 2001 – March 2002): DKC focused on planning and relationship building with the goal of securing media and other marketing/promotional partnerships for the duration of the campaign as well as for a massive fourth quarter push. DKC pursued contacts with high-profile charities, sports organizations, media, airlines and retailers.
· Stage 2: (April 2002 – August 2002): DKC focused on implementing the communications program with an emphasis on building and sustaining buzz for “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” by ensuring media and consumers alike, “the best is yet to come.”
· Stage 3: (September 2002 – October 2002): DKC focused on direct support for the CD launch and the announcement of “Elvis Lives,” the television program, the final major initiative of the RCA/BMG Elvis Presley Campaign that would extend “Elvis-mania” well into the holiday buying season and drive sales for “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits.”
The objective was to generate national and international buzz and awareness for “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” to ensure record-breaking sales in U.S. and abroad. Create a blueprint campaign which can be duplicated by BMG’s affiliates in other territories around the world. The strategy: develop a targeted campaign that maximizes the time span during which Elvis and “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” are newsworthy by ensuring and leveraging a cadence of relevant milestones and events between Spring 2002 and the 2002 holiday buying season, including the creation of a major 4th quarter push, possibly in the form of a nationwide event.
A core and impassioned Elvis audience clearly existed, but a successful campaign would clearly hinge upon extending the target audience and “re-branding” Elvis and his music to a younger generation of music fans—many of whom were not even born when Elvis died.
In May, DKC announced the June 2002 release of an Elvis career milestone—the historic remix of the Elvis single “ A Little Less Conversation;” and highlighted its appeal to a younger audience
In June, the firm announced another Elvis career milestone: “A Little less Conversation” reached No. 1 in the UK giving Elvis more No. 1 singles than any artist in the history of the UK, including the Beatles.
DKC also oversaw branding, creation, design and distribution of two-part teaser campaign (incorporating rare and newly discovered photos) that targeted opinion leaders in entertainment and media: a postcard set highlighting date of CD release drops by mail followed by a six track CD sampler that is distributed to high-profile opinion makers. DKC brought key media into the studio to hear select new sound on the CD with “before and after” comparisons and outtakes from original recordings. DKC also created an in-studio event where former Elvis bandmates listened to the revamped recordings for the first time in front of media.
 In July, DKC made top RCA/BMG executives available to speak about Elvis’ life, music and products and events that have been
developed to commemorate the 25th anniversary.
In August, the PR team created RCA/BMG Memphis-based events (e.g. plaque presentations, “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” listening sessions and luncheons) to be held during “Elvis Week” from August 12 through the eve of August 16, and officially announced the September 24 release of “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits.”
 In September, DKC created an album release party at NY’s Hard Rock Cafe with Priscilla Presley and other celebs featuring guest musicians singing Elvis classic #1 songs. It also released a media alert of celebrities attending the September 24 event and highlights including “Mobile Graceland,” custom-made “Elvis Cuisine” and surprise (e.g. American Idol winner) performances.
In October, DKC announced yet another Elvis milestone—“Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” debuts at #1 in 18 territories including U.S. and, for the first time ever an Elvis album debuts at the top of the charts in U.S. In total, the release reaches #1 in more than 24 territories worldwide and sells 6 million albums by mid October—1 million in just three weeks in the U.S. alone.
DKC also announced a new nationwide Elvis event—a TV special created by DKC and RCA/BMG—that partnered RCA/BMG with National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and artists including: Bono, Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Dave Mathews and Britney Spears for “Elvis Lives,” to create an hour-long Elvis special that will include selected performances from contemporary artists of four Presley classics culled from the “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” RCA release.
DKC secured continuous national feature coverage over a 6 month period, This included major segments on all three network nightly news programs and morning shows, as well as CNN, CNBC, FOX News and Charlie Rose, MTV, VH1, “Access Hollywood,” “Entertainment Tonight,” E! Entertainment Television, and many more. Additionally, cover stories ran in USA Weekend and TV Guide, with extensive features in Newsweek, US News & World Report, Esquire, Rolling Stone, NY Times, LA Times, Associated Press and Reuters.
One week after the September 24th release of “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits”, Nielsen Soundscan reported 500,318 units sold topping Billboard’s album chart marking the first time an Elvis album debuted at No. 1 in the United States. The CD also debuted in the #1 spot in 24 other countries: U.K., Canada, France, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Belgium, Argentina, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Chile, Switzerland, Austria and United Arab Emirates, among others.
“Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” was Billboard’s highest sold album in the U.S. for three consecutive weeks.
DKC created a blueprint campaign that is presently being duplicated by BMG affiliates in more than a half a dozen territories.
DKC estimates value of media placements exceeding $2 million.