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catch a rising star: The:Hours founders Leslie Dubest (from left), Alexandre Sap and Fabien Moreau had a feeling that Lady Gaga would hit it big.
Courtesy The:Hours Entertainment

The:Hours advertising agency knows that in effective marketing, the ears have it.

When Michael Kors launched his Very Hollywood fragrance in 2008, he wanted to incorporate music into the campaign by an artist who would embody the DNA of the product. He thought Madonna, with her single “Hollywood” from her 2003 studio album, ?American Life, would fit the bill. But when he approached ?Fabien Moreau, Alexandre Sap and Leslie Dubest — all partners at The:Hours advertising agency — they had a different idea.

Licensing Madonna’s music, they argued, would be an expensive (and not necessarily far-reaching) strategy. Moreau, the company’s North American CEO, proposed getting an up-and-coming artist on board — someone who would surprise people and spark conversation.
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Lady Gaga
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The partners found their artist in an on-the-rise singer who’d had only one single released. Though the song would eventually gain significant radio airplay, there was no indication that the artist behind it would be anything more than a one-hit wonder. But if there’s one thing the partners at The:Hours can do, it’s spot a star. The trio — who had worked together in the record industry for 12 years, running labels in the United States and Europe — sensed that it would be only a matter of time before the young songstress was red-hot. They signed her to her first global advertising deal. The artist’s name? Lady Gaga.

Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, president of Estée Lauder’s ?designer-fragrance division, the licenser for Michael Kors, recalls first hearing “The Fame,” the song that The:Hours executives had chosen for the campaign. “We all immediately fell in love with Lady Gaga’s song,” she says. “The:Hours team is consistently able to recognize talent very early.”

While the agency does occasionally court established artists, they have made bringing nascent stars to brands their calling card. Some might call The:Hours’ knack for attracting artists on the brink of megasuccess lucky, but for the partners, it’s the reward of their tireless scouting and networking at tastemaking events like Art Basel Miami Beach; the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas; the CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival in New York City; the Grammy Awards; the Cannes Film Festival and the annual Music Matters conference in Asia. They know their success depends on their ability to keep their fingers on the pulse of who’s hot and who’s not in the ever-changing music industry.