The Viral Marketing behind Harry Styles ‘Adore You’

The Columbia Records marketing team behind the elaborate Eroda campaign tells all.

Eroda: No Land Quite Like It.

That’s the slogan for the perpetually cloudy, frown-shaped fishing isle just off the coast of England whose name looks a lot like the title of a song on Harry Styles‘ upcoming Fine Line album, “Adore You” spelled backwards. And, if you haven’t figured it out now that the elaborate, Dave Meyers-directed visual for the latest single from the singer’s sophomore album is out, all those mysterious come-ons you’ve been seeing to visit the land that time (and maps) forgot was, indeed, an elaborate, calculated ruse to get Harries pumped for the album’s Dec. 13 release.

“The campaign was many months in the making and essentially this is the world that Harry and Dave Meyers built in the brilliant video… they built this incredible, dreamy world with all these different characters and stories and super-strong storytelling, a lot of emotion and interesting messages,” Manos Xanthogeorgis, svp of Digital Marketing & Media at Columbia Records tells Billboard. “And then our job was to build this online and build this story and create anticipation for what was to come.”

After the fantasical video about a boy with million-watt teeth who teaches the glum imaginary island how to smile again via his friendship with a magical fish was filmed in August, the Columbia marketing team began the hard part: figuring out how to build a detailed digital world that would amp the singer’s followers up for the big reveal. “When you have a video and a piece of art at such a level, it’s an incredible challenge for the rest of the team to build a campaign at that same level of artistry and creativity,” says Xanthogeorgis.

Luckily, Styles and Meyers had created a rich world with dozens of locations and characters that Xanthogeorgis and his team spent hours studying, looking for clues they could use in the stealth campaign by putting themselves in the shoes of Harries (who see clues everywhere). There was a firm, detailed plan in place before the effort officially went live on Nov. 18 with the reveal of the innocuous-looking Eroda homepage, but, as always, Harries had their own ideas.

As much time as the marketing team put into sprinkling crumbs across the internet, Columbia director of Digital Marketing John Salcedo says they spent almost as many hours watching and listening to how fans were reacting and revealing tidbits, working in real time and pivoting the treasure hunt based on what the amateur detectives dug up. “When they found [something] we adjusted and/or leaned on it to make sure that they could further go down the rabbit hole,” says Salcedo.

The “real-time marketing” meant that the plan shifted every day, with the team working around-the-clock to read comments, dig into chat rooms, Reddit and elaborate Twitter threads filled with clues they’d planted and some they hadn’t in order to see where the audience was going so they could toss seeds in the right places. “This whole campaign was around mystery and sometimes mystery is more powerful than knowldege,” says Xanthogeorgis, noting that digital native fans are so used to finding any information they want very quickly online, that creating a world where answers are hard to come by was a delicious twist.

FULL STORY: Billboard