If you were surfing through Sunday’s Premier section of the Beacon Journal, you may have come across an odd, seemingly out-of-place listing for a 1994 El Camino, which actually showed a beatdown ’90s Dodge Caravan in the photo.
The description was equally odd, touting “sapphire stylus, some ticks/pops, light surface noise,” and other attributes not generally associated with used cars.
The listing ends with “Grab the Keys and go! Call Pat or Dan” with a local phone number; when called, it reveals a voice that sounds a lot like Black Keys drummer Pat Carney, suggesting you leave a message.
The car ad (which generated some puzzled calls to the Beacon Journal’s advertising department) is just one of the oblique ways that Carney and his bandmate Dan Auerbach are promoting the Keys’ upcoming seventh album, the appropriately titled El Camino, due out Dec. 6.
The album, co-produced by the band and Danger Mouse, follows the breakthrough Brothers which garnered the Firestone High grads three Grammys, an MTV Music Award, a certified gold disc and global sales well over 1 million.
In addition to the car listing, the band has begun the promotional push with a website (www.wannabuyavan.com) that features more mock listings, and a comedic commercial for the car starring Breaking Bad and Mr. Show actor/comedian Bob Odenkirk that has already drawn more than 90,000 views (watch it at http://youtube/b_Q9fskIosM; there is some profanity).
To further ramp up the anticipation and first-week sales, the West Akron natives are offering an email download of the album’s lead single, Lonely Boy, hitting airwaves on Oct. 26, to fans who pre-order the album.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 50 fans from around the world had commented on the website. Some played along with the gag: “I think I have seen this Van Parked Down By River,” mcwizzy commented, and joe queried, “can i fit a single bed and camping toilet in there?”
Other fans are less impressed, with matt dillion proclaiming “The Black Keys don’t really need this kind of (crappy) promotion stunt for their new album. You’ve already made it boys,” and several posters wondering why a Dodge Caravan is being called an El Camino.
The ad and the video are the latest example of how bands are using the blogosphere and the Web to build buzz, entertain and involve fans, and amuse themselves.
During promotion of their previous album, Brothers, the Keys released a clever and pitch-perfect mock movie trailer for the song Howlin’ For You, featuring familiar faces including Corbin Bernsen, Shaun White, and “Sir” Todd Bridges. The fact that the song had already been used in real ads for the show True Blood only helped to spread the word further.
Artists have been using the Internet to spark interest for several years now. Nine Inch Nails built multiple sites, listed mysterious phone numbers, sent cryptic e-mails, and posted vague videos, MP3s and other cross-media promotions to expand the backstory for the 2007 concept album Year Zero.
Akron’s own Devo allowed fans the opportunity to pick the songs and colors for their most recent album, Something For Everybody, through a series of YouTube videos and a voting website. Recent Rock Hall inductee Tom Waits, not exactly known for being on the cutting edge of viral marketing, invited fans to a “private listening party” for his new album Bad As Me, but when fans tuned in, they saw Waits lampooning the dangers of album leaks, forcing listeners to sit in a broken-down car (after being frisked by a doorman) to hear tracks from the album.
The Black Keys themselves aren’t talking yet, but with nearly two months until the release date, fans should keep their ears, eyes and smart phones on alert.