How 'Straight Outta Compton' Viral Marketing Became a Sensation

@beatsbydre/Instagram; Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Dre's 'Straight Outta Compton' meme image, and a still from the film.

From that popular meme to skywriting overhead, Universal Pictures, Interscope and Beats by Dre all had a hand in making 'Compton' come alive.

In May, rapper-mogul Dr. Dre called together a meeting with top-level marketing executives from Universal Pictures, Universal Music’s Interscope label, Apple and his own Beats audio company.

The release of Universal’s N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton, which he produced, was just three months away, as was the launch of his first album in 14 years, Compton, a companion piece to the film.

So he looked around the room and said: "What do you guys got?"

During the past two weeks, leading up to today's Aug. 14 release of Straight Outta Compton, he got his answer: The efforts of the four companies resulted in several attention-getting plays: When UFC champ Ronda Rousey knocked out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds on Aug. 1, the Straight Outta Compton label was right below her on the mat; there was an ad for the film that played during the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6; the "Straight Outta Somewhere" meme went viral with nearly 6 million personalized labels being shared on the Internet; and the word "Compton" was literally painted over the skies of Los Angeles.

"You very rarely see companies like this in a room together," Beats by Dre CMO Omar Johnson tells The Hollywood Reporter. "But we were all super aligned with Dre’s goals, and he’s been a great maestro to conduct all of these brands working together."

The "Straight Outta Somewhere" meme was the brainchild of Beats by Dre, in partnership with Universal. After three junior Beats employees were tasked with coming up with a campaign, they stumbled upon a video of Dre talking about how the members of N.W.A named their debut album Straight Outta Compton because they wanted to show they were proud of where they came from.

"That is where the campaign took its form," says Johnson. "It wasn’t about Compton as a place anymore, it became about being proud of where you’re from."

Beats hired North Kingdom agency to create the meme generator, which allows anyone to input their own hometown in N.W.A’s signature black and white logo. The Aug. 5 launch of the site featured a handful of Beats partners, including Dre, tennis star Serena Williams and NFL player Richard Sherman, presenting their own "Straight Outta Somewhere" stamps, and it’s taken off from there. Since its launch on Aug. 5, the site has had 7 million visitors and nearly 6 million downloads of the meme (as of Aug. 13). It simultaneously trended No. 1 two days in a row across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and, during that time, there were an average of 15,000 #Straightoutta tweets and retweets per minute. According to Twitter, there have been more than 400,000 Tweets mentioning #StraightOutta since Aug. 6.

"We see this as just the beginning," adds Johnson, who points to celebrities like Jennifer Lopez who have created their own memes, leading to big spikes in activity. "I think it has room to grown and we’re seeing traffic increase day after day after day."

Tweeted images of the word "Compton" peppered across the sky all over Los Angeles also became a viral sensation.

Interscope Records organized the skywriting as a promotional tool for Dre’s new album. It was only on Aug. 1 that Dre announced he’d be releasing Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre, and that the album, from Dre’s Interscope label Aftermath Entertainment, would be released exclusively on  iTunes and Apple Music on Aug. 7.

"We really had six days to prepare for the launch," says Interscope vice chairman Steve Berman. "We wanted to make as much of a statement, especially in Dre’s hometown, as we possibly could."

The skywriting took over Los Angeles on Aug. 7 and 8, and also appeared in skies above the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco that same weekend. Plus, Interscope booked skywriting for Monday, Aug. 10, to coincide with the red carpet premiere of Straight Out Compton in downtown Los Angeles.

"It’s a very effective tool in certain markets, especially the way social network can create a buzz," says Berman. "We definitely caught that wave in this campaign."

Interscope will also be tying their album promotion to the film over opening weekend by running an album teaser in front of screenings of Straight Outta Compton.

"The synergy that was taking place between Beats and Apple and the film company and the record company is something that was being orchestrated for the past couple of months when everything started to crystallize," says Berman. "The promotions all complement each other going into the launch of the film, and it’s created a huge amount of energy and excitement."

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