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Grammys sign up Lil Wayne, Thom Yorke for new campaign

January 12, 2009 |  4:01 pm

Lil Wayne, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder and Rihanna have signed on for a massive Recording Academy ad campaign. Television, print, online and radio spots will try to drum up some excitement for the organization's annual Grammy awards, which suffered a decline in ratings last year.

A television ad (above) with Wonder's "Superstition" -- and lyrical references to such R&B and soul artists as Ray Charles and Stephanie Mills -- debuted over the weekend on CBS. Ad spots with Rihanna and Yorke will roll out in the days leading up the Feb. 8 telecast.

Grammys_yorkeA Grammy spokeswoman says each artist was asked to give the Recording Academy 10-20 songs that influenced or affected their life and career. The lyrics and song titles are then featured in the print and television ads.

One nicely odd effect is that the advertisements for the industry awards now feature a host of artists and songs that had not been recognized by the Grammys. The Yorke ad is at left, and contains references to such experimental and challenging artists as Scott Walker ("Psoriatic") and the Liars ("The Wrong Coat for You Mt. Heart Attack"). One of the biggest references in Yorke's ad goes to a relatively unknown electronic act Modeselektor, whose "Kill Bill Vol. 4" is inscribed into the forehead of the Radiohead singer.

The print ads from Lil Wayne and Rihanna come with more popular nods. Lil Wayne's ad pays tribute to Jay-Z's "Can't Knock the Hustle" and Young Buck's "Pocket Full of Paper," for instance. The most notable presence on the Rihanna ad is Destiny's Child's "Say My Name."

The print component will also continue to expand in the run-up to the awards. A Grammy spokeswoman says spots with Coldplay and Kanye West are in development.

The Lil Wayne ad comes with this bit of fine print: "Artist not guaranteed to perform." However, it would be rare for an artist nominated for album of the year -- Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" and Radiohead's "In Rainbows" are both up for the top prize -- to not perform at the Grammy ceremony, which will be held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The ads were developed by TBWA\Chiat\Day, and are said to be part of the biggest campaign in the Recording Academy's history, one that cost in the multimillions, according to Billboard. The promotion, dubbed "music makes us," is coming one year after the Grammys suffered their lowest ratings since 1992. More recently, a prime-time Grammy special announcing this year's nominations didn't fare too well in the ratings, finishing in fourth place for its time slot.

-- Todd Martens