Verizon Hopes to Get Viral Rhythm Going with Beatbox Effort

Do a search for “beatbox” on YouTube and you’ll end up with over 2,000 videos matching that keyword, including one featuring the not-so-human beatbox stylings of a parrot. As of yesterday, Verizon began adding the first of its own beatbox films to the video site’s mix.

These videos on YouTube will accompany others on MySpace and profile pages dedicated to maestros of the vocal percussion form. In addition, Verizon is launching a new Web tool for creating and distributing beatbox mixes. It’s all part of the company’s ongoing campaign to transform its brand image from a telecom to a broadband entertainment firm.

The Verizon Beatbox Mixer tool is “part of the overarching brand campaign for Verizon,” commented Brian Price, director of the firm’s Online Center of Excellence.

Verizon’s “Richer, Deeper, Broader” campaign, in continuing development by digital creative agency R/GA, launched mid-2005 with the intent to spotlight music, movies and personal stories displaying the firm’s broadband services. With the new interactive beatbox video and music tool, the company is continuing its move into the world of CGM in the hopes of achieving viral buzz, and maybe a little street cred.

“We’re definitely taking a very authentic tack,” explained R/GA Group Account Director Richard Marks. The goal, he said, is to reach “a broad audience;” however, he expects “typical, younger, more engaged, interactive, broadband users to be the first ones to fiddle with the hip-hop inspired online gadget. The beatbox community is already aware of it, added Marks, and Verizon is anticipating that influential members of the scene could help lend credence to the effort that could otherwise be perceived as a mere marketing scheme.

The beatbox production interface allows users to select, arrange and edit pre-recorded vocal effects from five popular beatboxers and alter video background images. In that way, the Beatbox Mixer “honors that spirit of collaboration,” observed Baba Israel, a recognized beatboxer and consultant to R/GA and Verizon on the project. Israel also admired the look of the tool which he said resembles professional audio mixing interfaces.

Besides just telling their friends about the free tool, mix masters can send links to their creations to others, and in the coming days will be able to embed the file for play directly on their own sites, according to Marks. The initial campaign will also involve street teams and wild postings.

In time, users also will be able to transform their beatbox mixes into ringtones for their mobile phones. Verizon Wireless competitor Cingular is planning a similar effort with teen social networking site Bolt that will enable users to mix their own ringtones with a ringtone equalizer.

Later this month, Web ads promoting the beatbox tool will run on CGM sites, hip-hop sites and ”culturally relevant sites” such as Flavorpill, to reinforce the hoped-for viral communication, Marks said.

Verizon unveiled its extended “Richer, Deeper, Broader” TV, print and rich media campaign in June. Last year, the company ran a short-film contest for its Verizon Broadband Films site featuring NYU student films, also designed to spur viral Word of Mouth.

According to Marks, Verizon is looking into developing CGM-enabling tools similar to the Beatbox Mixer that would center on gaming and sports.

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