One of the most talked about performances at The Grammy’s last night was Lady Gaga’s tour through the David Bowie catalogue, to honor the late artist who died in January. Surrounded by a huge band, projections, holograms, and multiple wardrobe changes, Gaga whipped through “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fashion,” “Fame,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Heroes” in polarizing six-minute performance. Polarizing not so much for the quality of her covers, but rather one of her partners in putting it all on.
In the commercial break immediately after, we all found out how big a part Intel had to play in helping craft Gaga’s Bowie tribute–the projections, the robot piano, her glowing ring powered by the brand’s wearable Curie chip–by way of an Intel ad. And while on one hand it’s incredibly cool that Intel opened its tech up to Gaga to use in her tribute, many have been criticizing the way it was used as a marketing opportunity as the tribute was still ringing in people’s ears.
Even Bowie’s son cryptically chimed in, which has been interpreted as a not-so thinly veiled criticism.
As brands increasingly try to seamlessly slide into pop culture, instead of interrupting it with a blatant commercial message, marketers need to be ready for any amount of backlash. The timing of the ad aside, the partnership was a bang-on perfect fit for both the brand, Gaga, and the Grammys. The only second-guess, and what likely riled fans up the most, is doing it all in the name of Bowie, who had no say in the matter of being part of an Intel ad.