Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's behind Wilco's odd new Popeye video

It struck me as more than a bit strange when I read that King Features and dBpm Records had joined forces for the release of a new cartoon and animated music video for Wilco’s “Dawned On Me” featuring Popeye the Sailor Man. Upon discovering the clip had been directed by Darren Romanelli, everything started making a lot more sense.

You see, Romanelli isn't only the face of the Dr. Romanelli fashion line,  he's also the custom marketing specialist behind Street Virus who conceived the animated collaboration between Wilco and King Features’ flagship character Popeye, first introduced in animated form by Fleischer Studios in 1933.
Romanelli's marketing team was initially hired by King Features to curate the resurrection and reintroduction of their Beetle Bailey comic strip character to contemporary consumers. What became known as the Dr. Romanelli: Camp Swampy project first appeared to the public in the form of Converse's Bosey model sneakers which look like army-style Chuck Taylors with Beetle Bailey graphics inside the shoe. Of course, the shoes and jackets with Beetle Bailey on the back were just the beginning. The clever bit was hitting on the Army Vs. Navy strategy as a way to reintroduce an even bigger King Features property, Popeye The Sailor Man.

The next phase came last September with the roll out of MediCom Toy's new Beetle Bailey and Popeye Bearbrick dolls. Then in October, the new Converse Popeye-style Chuck Taylors popped up alongside their Beetle Bailey shoes at Bloomingdales just in time for the holidays.

So the Wilco new video clip is essentially just latest phase of Romanelli's elaborate Camp Swampy campaign – a sneaky commercial for their King Features product lines designed to hit the 50+ target demographic: Wilco fans.   

Jeff Tweedy and company have never been gung-ho about allowing their music to be used in advertising. Neither have they been keen on wasting loads of money on promotional videos – they haven't done one since 1999's  I'm Always In Love off of Summerteeth and that was a straight rehearsal space performance clip – which makes this unusual venture with Romanelli's marketing team that much more intriguing. Now that they've completed and released the long-form commercial for Popeye, could there be Wilco brand canned spinach on grocery shelves next? Or perhaps a new series of collectible Wilco Bearbrick dolls? Stay tuned.    

Dawned On Me by Wilco

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