Steve Stoute is a venerated figure in the world of music and advertising who single-handedly revolutionized the advertising industry when he brilliantly married iconic personalities with renowned Fortune 500 corporations.
When Stoute delivers his keynote address, “Re-Introducing a Classic Brand to Young Adults,” at the American Advertising Federation convention convention in San Diego on June 3, Stoute’s reputation and pedigree will precede him as authoritatively as the trumpet of an HBCU halftime band. Jay-Z calls him a genius. Dr. Dre’s label partner over at Innerscope Records, Jimmy Iovine, says Stoute is a legend. And his list of accomplishments from the time he was the manager of the hip-hop duo, Kid-N-Play, until now would exhaust one’s eyes.
“[I] think that what they mean is advertisers notoriously did not necessarily take into consideration the cultural trends that were taking place and [they didn’t] use advertising to highlight and communicate those things,” Stoute elucidates. “And I think that, as time goes on, the work that we’re contributing at Translation, along with other quality agencies, has taken the consumer’s cultural impact that the consumer choice has and actually put that into the framework of advertising. I think that it’s coming back and taking dividends. As evidenced by the State Farm campaign that we just did, I think we took a lot of cultural cues in that campaign. And as a result, they’re asking us to do the keynote speech on it.”
If you want to know what makes Stoute the savant he is, here is the perfect example: While other artists ran away from Will Smith as if he were some flesh-eating bacteria who should have been quarantined in the early ’90s, Stoute flowed against the powerful currents of public opinion and signed Smith, who was musically homeless, onto his Sony label. The result? The Men in Black soundtrack sold 10 million copies, and the movie became an international blockbuster and immediate classic. More importantly, 14 million of the Ray-Ban sunglasses that Smith wore in the movie flew off the shelves. Stoute would later be inducted into the AAF’s exclusive Hall of Achievement, and Will Smith put together arguably the greatest movie run, in terms of consecutive $100-million movies, in Hollywood history. Case closed.
This is where Stoute discerned the ability of entertainers and athletes to enhance the marketability of corporations’ products and services. Stoute is the one who launched the “I’m Loving It” campaign for McDonald’s. He also put together the ultra-popular State Farm campaign, where the woman asks for the man who hit her car to be changed into a hunk. It was Stoute to pair Jay-Z with Hewlett Packard in that famous, groundbreaking commercial where they showed only half of his body.
So, it would behoove AAF conventioneers to drink down much of the information that Stoute proffers during the conference. This writer certainly will.