Beats by Dre asks powerfully: How can America love black tradition however hate us a lot?
In a departure from its traditional product-heavy commercials, Beats by Dre has released a short film with an all-star cast and crew – as well as a provocative statement about the impact of the black community on popular culture worldwide.
The spot entitled “You Love Me” shows tennis champion Naomi Osaka, rapper Lil Baby, Nascar driver Bubba Wallace and activist for Black Lives Matter, Janaya Future Khan.
The team behind the scenes is also filled with formidable names: Melina Matsoukas, a recent Adweek Creative 100 award winner, led Lena Waithe's project, which was part of Adweek's 2020 Pride Stars showcase. Solange Knowles composed the original music.
In a run-up to Christmas when the Apple brand could have taken a page from their own well-known game book – flashy, quick-cut ads featuring famous athletes and celebrities wearing Beats headphones – those in charge said they deliberately chose one deeper direction.
"It's so important that the message comes first," said Chris Thorne, CMO of the brand. "What we're doing here goes so much deeper than talking about the products that Beats makes."
The timing and tone had to be right, he said, feeling organically "for Beats' mission and loyal to what is going on in the world right now."
The work is from Translation. Founder and CEO Steve Stoute told Adweek that the agency and client started discussing the project after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police this summer. The partners worked on the concept for almost five months and shot the spot.
Beats was "culture focused and supportive from Day 1," Stoute said, giving the brand "permission to make a statement," unlike some brands who "use this as a moment to tick a box without one to make real "commitment."
The brand stepped back and allowed Matsoukas, Waithe and the rest of the creative team to achieve their vision, Thorne said, without the story having to be told in typical 30- or 60-second ad units.
Beats has a responsibility to tell bold stories. We will continue to use our platform and push for changes.
Chris Thorne, CMO, Beats by Dre
The result, a more than two-minute film piece, begins with a voice-over by Houston hip-hop artist Tobe Nwigwe, who says, “You love me, you don't love me. You love black culture but do you love me? “The narrative addresses bigotry and social injustice and challenges viewers to wonder how they can fall so in love with black culture and still“ hate us so much ”.
The accompanying pictures show the sports and music stars as well as everyday people – children playing and families – with a few urban cowboys on horseback and choir members playing a hymn. The goal is to "focus the conversation on the beauty and resilience of this country's black community," Wallace said in a statement, while Khan called the spot "an invitation to be heard, to be black and to be powerful".
Osaka, fresh from her US Open win and high profile engagement there, was a natural choice to be one of the spots' stars, Thorne said.
"I appreciate the positive attitude and the celebration of the place," Osaka told Adweek. "We are all proud of the work we do professionally, personally and creatively, and the spot shows that spirit."
The mini-movie, which was shot over four days in Los Angeles, won't be the brand's only thought-provoking piece, according to Thorne.