Melody ramps up in Arab world


Melody Tunes brings modern Western music to the Arab world.

Does the Arab world want its Melody Tunes? More precisely, does it want an all-English channel playing Western music by artists such as 50 Cent and Madonna?

Melody Tunes, a channel that launched in the Middle East in September, is betting that it does and launched an integrated campaign from ad agency Leo Burnett in Cairo, Egypt, to prove that there was a viable market for such music.

The campaign, which consists of six television commercials, five radio spots and print ads, plays off the idea of non-native English speakers singing along phonetically to songs by artists such as Akon and 50 Cent.

In the 30-second "Akon" spot, one teenager is seen writing on his living room wall while his friend watches him. The drawer's mother discovers him in mid-graffiti and smacks him to the ground. As he lies there, stunned, his friend begins singing and acting out Akon's hit "Smack That" over his prone body.

"The idea came from people in the country. Lots of them speak English and [the work is] targeted at them," said Mohamed Hamdalla, creative director, Burnett, Cairo, who also directed the spots. "Everyone on the street tries to throw English into conversations to make themselves seem educated even when they're not. We thought it would be fun to make fun of that."

Melody Tunes, which launched in September, is part of Melody, a media company similar to Viacom with several other channels focused on Arabic films and music. It is not the first media outlet to present Western music, but it will be the first all-English music channel. MTV, in November, will begin MTV Arabia, the company said. Similar to channels such as Rotana and Mazzika, it will air a mix of Western and Arab music.

Presenting Western music in the Arab world is not a guarantee of success. This summer MuchMusic's "Arab-yeah" failed to make a go of it and went off the air after only a few months. The Arab equivalent of Canada's Much Music styled itself as an Arab version of MTV and played a mix of Western and Arab music.

The campaign establishes Melody Tunes as an anti-authority, rebellious channel targeted at Arab youth.

"The target audience is young people who are very influenced by the West yet have had their own culture embedded in them growing up," said Gamal Marwan, CEO and chairman of Melody. "We wanted the campaign to be light and catchy and for Melody to be known as always pushing the envelope."

The spots, which are up on YouTube, have proven so successful that Burnett's Cairo office is developing the next round, which it plans to air in the next month or so. (The six spots average around 75,000 views apiece.) Melody, per sources, is spending between $7-8 million on the campaign.

"One of the things I've learned is that if you give an agency the creative freedom, this is what they'll give you," said Marwan. "With our next round of spots, since the formula is working, we'll stick with it."