U2’s ‘Achtung Baby’ Gains EHR Programmers’ Attention

Music & Media by Machgiel Bakker (1991-11-23)

Although hard-edged rock & roll usually has a tough time on EHR, European programmers seem to be willing to bend the rules for U2’s sixth studio album, Achtung Baby, released this week.

While The Fly is shooting up the EHR Top 40 chart (no. 5 this week), EHR programmers are embracing the wide variety of material on the 12-track album. First airplay favourites that are emerging: The Zoo, So Cruel and Love is Blindness.

According to Bruno Ployer, programme director for Rome-based national web Radio Dimensione Suono, at least three songs off the album are suitable for daily rotation. The single The Fly is currently A-listed on the station and getting an average of three plays a day. “Although U2 is not a singles-oriented band, requests for the single have been pouring in,” says Ployer. “This is a good sign. People have obviously been waiting for the album to be released. U2 is not a ‘proper’ pop radio band, but this album is full of good radio songs.”

The Fly is also in heavy rotation on French network NRG. Head of programmes Max Guazzini says, “We’ve always been sponsoring the band’s concerts. U2 is a very important band for us. It’s hit material and, therefore, it has a place on our network.”

Dutch EHR pubcaster NCRV was the first to air The Fly on national territory. The album will get powerplay rotation on the station’s broadcasting day (Saturday), which amounts to one track from the album per hour. DJ/producer Henk Mouwe is very impressed by the album. “The Zoo is a perfect track. It starts with those wild distorting guitars; you have no idea what direction it will go, but then its still becomes classic U2 material. The album has a great drive and you can hear the tension in all the tracks.”

BMG holds the marketing and distribution rights for Island on the continent until 1994. Only in France and the UK will Island manage the marketing and promotion. Achtung Baby marks the first U2 album since the sale of Island to PolyGram in 1989.

The album release is accompanied by a campaign that Island international manager Ceri Nicholas describes as “slightly esoteric, witty and intellectual.” Says Nicholas, “It’s very much a European album and the campaign reflects that. It’s fun and entertaining.” M&M estimates that European shipments of the album are about 2 million copies. This includes 500,000 each for the UK and Italy, 450,00 in Germany, 300,000 in France and 100,000 in Holland.

Apart from an extensive billboard campaign and a wide range of point-of-sale material, the Trabant car (as featured in one of the 16 Anton Corbijn photographs on the cover) will play a lead role in the project. In the UK, Germany, France, Sweden and Ireland, the Eastern bloc automobile will pop up in various locations across the country. In other markets—such as Holland and Itally—the car will be part of contests run with major retailers, the consumer pop music press, and TV channels.

Island France marketing manager Isidore Brobst has been trying to build demand for the record since July. At the end of November, a two-week radio ad campaign kicks off with 150 30-seconds spots running on NRJ, Skyrock and RFM. “In this way, we cover different types of audiences,” he says. “Not only do we want to reach the fan base but also create a new public for the band.”

Over at BMG Ariola Munich, Island label manager Achim Fehlau reports good radio reaction for The Fly, which is currently getting 90 plays a week. “This builds the perfect base for the album launch. We’ll be running a one-minute spot in 200 cinema’s across the country. The Joshua Tree sold 950,000 copies, but we want to beat that figure.”

BMG Italy international A&R/marketing manager Riccardo Clary describes the album as “the most important international release for the year. This is going to be at least a one-year campaign.” The company is running spot campaigns on Radio Deejay, Rete 105 and Radio Dimensione Suono. Also a seven-second spot runs on national music video outlet Video Music.

BMG Holland will be running a national transit campaign this week. Until December 6, some 200 busses will carry a 9×1 billboard announcing the album release. Island label manager Paul Zijlstra estimates the campaign to ammount to Dfl 150,000.

The band’s new single, Mysterious Ways will be released on the continent on November 25, supported by a video clip—shot in Morocco-directed by Propaganda Films director Stephan Sednaoui.

The band will go on a two-year worldwide tour that will start in February-March 1992.

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