In a departure from its traditional product-heavy commercials, Beats by Dre has launched a short film with an all-star cast and crew— plus a provocative statement about the Black community’s impact on popular culture worldwide.
The spot, called “You Love Me,” features tennis champ Naomi Osaka, rapper Lil Baby, Nascar driver Bubba Wallace and Black Lives Matter activist Janaya Future Khan.
Its behind-the-scenes team is also filled with impressive names: Melina Matsoukas, a recent honoree in Adweek’s Creative 100, directed the project, written by Lena Waithe, who was part of Adweek’s 2020 Pride Stars showcase. Solange Knowles composed the original music.
In a pre-holiday season when the Apple-owned brand could have taken a page from its own well-known playbook—eye-catching, quick-cut ads with famous athletes and celebrities wearing Beats headphones—execs said they purposely decided to go in a more profound direction.
“It’s so important that the message be front and center,” said Chris Thorne, the brand’s CMO. “What we’re doing here is so much deeper than talking about the products that Beats makes.”
The timing and tone had to be right, he said, feeling organic “to the mission of Beats and true to what’s going on in the world right now.”
The work comes from Translation, with founder and CEO Steve Stoute telling Adweek that the agency and client started discussing the project in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death this summer at the hands of Minneapolis police. The partners spent nearly five months collaborating on the concept and shooting the spot.
Beats has been “aligned with the culture and supportive from Day 1,” Stoute said, giving the brand “permission to make a statement,” unlike some brands that may be “using this as a moment to check a box, without making a real commitment.”
The brand stood back and allowed Matsoukas, Waithe and the rest of the creative team to realize their vision, Thorne said, not requiring that the story be told in typical 30- or 60-second ad units.
Beats has a responsibility to tell bold stories. We’ll keep using our platform and pushing for change.
Chris Thorne, CMO, Beats by Dre
The result, a cinematic piece that runs more than two minutes, kicks off with voiceover from Houston hip-hop artist Tobe Nwigwe that says: “You love me, you love me not. You love Black culture, but do you love me?” The narration speaks to bigotry and social injustice, challenging viewers to ask themselves how they can be so enamored of Black culture and yet “hate us so deeply.”
The accompanying images show the sports and music celebrities along with everyday people—kids playing and families bonding—with a few urban cowboys on horseback and chorus members belting out a hymn. The goal is to “center the conversation around 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, be Black and be powerful.”
Osaka, fresh off her win at the U.S. Open and her high-profile activism there, was a natural choice as one of the spot’s stars, Thorne said.
“I appreciate the positivity and the celebration of the spot,” Osaka told Adweek. “We are all proud of the work we do professionally, personally and creatively, and the spot showcases that spirit.”
The mini-movie, which was shot over four days in Los Angeles, won’t be the only thought-provoking piece coming from the brand, according to Thorne.