Though there was no artist tour and only one television appearance to help it, Atlantic Records used all aspects of its marketing expertise to finally break the Swedish super-group ABBA in America, pushing sales of ABBA-The Album past the platinum plateau.
David Glew, senior vice president and general manager, Atlantic Records, says the campaign began with the release of The Name Of The Game single last November, 1977. The-Album followed two months later, when the single was already a hit.
Six weeks after the release of the LP it went gold, says Glew, and then a new commitment was made to go into an extensive phase two of the marketing campaign, where a new push was mounted to double existing sales.
Working with Scotti Bros. Entertainment, Atlantic kicked off phase two with the release of the Take A Chance On Me single in late March.
Glew says a preliminary meeting on this was held at the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers convention attended by him, the Scottis, Jerry Greenberg, president of Atlantic, and Dick Kline, vice president of promotion for the label.
At the time ABBA was scheduled to appear at a heavily promoted ABC-TV special for Olivia Newton-John. High in-store visibility was planned for the group to tie-in with the TV appearance.
ABBA’s week-long visit to the U.S. to tape the special on May 17th, 1978, was its only appearance in this country. The band members did some interviews during their stay, but there were no live shows or personal appearances to promote the LP.
Originally ABBA-The Movie was supposed to be released in the U.S. at the same time as the LP, and though the film is doing well in Europe, in this country it has still not been seen. Warner Bros. has an option on the film.
Atlantic has put together what Glew describes as “probably the biggest overall marketing campaign in many years.”
“We came up with a theme: ‘The Largest Selling Group In The History Of Recorded Music,’ ” says Glew, “and at the WEA convention at Palm Springs in April we kicked it off. We had two or three goals we were trying to achieve.
“It is hard to take an album at 600,000 units and double it in a short time, and we knew that. The next bulk of sales had to come with the single, Take A Chance On Me.
“We allocated to the branches additional albums and tapes in quantities. We had pre-staged this all and even before we allocated the records we had them pressed and ready.
“Next we offered our customers a 10% deal on the LP, and also on the catalog. That was the incentive for the branches to get out that large allocation. And we ran the program on a continuous basis. The reason for that was Dickie Kline’s promotion department was adding stations, so when the airplay rotation became heavy, the branches and the accounts could still buy the records under the deal,” continues Glew.
Glew says that on the Take A Chance On Me single as well, everything was planned and staged as part of the campaign to break the Swedish group. A certain number of copies were allocated to each branch and a 10% deal was also offered, something that is rare for singles, Glew claims.
Since the cover of The Album does not contain a clear picture of the group, and since the group was not that well known in the U.S., a decision was made to go with a four-color picture sleeve on the single, emphasizing the group’s good looks. All the other merchandising aids and posters were used to reinforce the group’s visual quality.
At the same time, Atlantic enlisted the help of Leif Garrett, a Scotti Bros. artist, who was on his own mini-tour. In addition to promoting his own product on the trip, he also plugged ABBA, Glew says.
ABBA is a group that appeals to a broad spectrum, both to older demographics and to the pre-teen crowd. ABBA singles have even appeared in new wave and punk charts. Glew says that in seeking radio play Atlantic went after the Top 40 formats primarily, though The Album also received AOR play as well.
With the release of the single there were also tip sheet and trade ads placed in various publications, while the publicity department hired an outside p.r. firm, Solters and Roskins.
There were also Top 40 radio time buys for the Take A Chance On Me single in 14 markets. The theory behind this, Glew says, was to create so much excitement on the single that it would enable the LP to take off again as if it was brand new. The bulk of these ads were run at the end of last May and the beginning of June.
In May, Atlantic erected a giant billboard in Los Angeles for ABBA, and, for in-store display, created large standups of the group, again all featuring visuals of the four members. There were also two-by-twos and mobiles created for the campaign. All were shipped together with the LPs and singles, allowing the stores to put them up immediately.
To make sure the displays had visibility, Atlantic mounted one contest for the branch distributors and another “ABBA bucks” contest for store employees. In this contest, WEA branch members and Atlantic staffers gave store employees the “ABBA bucks” entry blanks if they saw an ABBA display in the store. These were sent in to Atlantic with the winner of a drawing getting a trip to Sweden.
Atlantic also made up ABBA T-shirts to be given away at three levels: for Store Employees, radio giveaways and for members of the press, given away through the publicity department.
All this, too, was timed for May and June, as were stuffer cards Atlantic provided clerks to put in the shopping bags of store customers. To further bolster the group’s visual appeal a videotape was made for the various WEA branches and for stores that use video merchandising.
To reinforce its campaign Atlantic put together an ABBA sampler LP record for press, in-store and radio promotions. The album was a basic greatest hits package, with the cover emphasizing the group’s visuals.
In New York, Atlantic and the Sam Goody Records chain did an iron-on promotion with the New York Sunday News, where a T-shirt iron-on was provided with every copy of the newspaper.
Glew emphasizes that the campaign was the result of teamwork within all the departments of Atlantic, and with WEA, the distributing company. It resulted in sales of about 1.3 million units of ABBA-The Album as well as giving the group its own definite image within the U.S. One by-product of the campaign was that it brought the ABBA catalog back into the charts and also resulted in platinum status for ABBA’s Greatest Hits. Glew says. Transcribed for ABBA World
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