Nicky Romero’s use of unique campaigns to further his brand

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With the DJ Mag Top 100 poll playing such a huge role in artists’ careers, various producers have enforced creative campaigns to scoop in as many votes as they possibly can. In recent years, the award itself has been ridiculed by some sections of the dance community with many labelling the accolade as a glorified popularity contest. But in the eyes of booking agents, and promoters worldwide, the DJ Mag Top 100 still carries a huge weight.

In the United States of America especially, and across the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas EDM circuit, promoters love to shove leaflets under the unsuspecting noses of tourists wombling up and down the iconic strip in Nevada, in the bid to rope them into high-end, high-priced thousand dollar table service packages at clubs like Hakkasan, Drais, or Omnia at Caesars Palace, filled with the promise of a set from ‘The World’s Number #(insert number here) DJ’. The title itself has become something of a bragging right, or a shiny gold sticker to emblazon on the CV, biography etc, of an electronic act.

But with the market more saturated than ever, how can you ensure that your own campaign hits the spot? With thousands of DJs all vying for that all-important numero uno position, many find that even breaking the top 100 can be tricky, with legendary acts like Fatboy Slim, or Pacha Ibiza resident Martin Solveig all missing out on a spot. The truth is, that whilst some acts use underhand tactics to ensure a place in the list (still to this day, much controversy surrounds the 2015 crowning of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike after representatives of the duo allegedly toured Tomorrowland forcing festival goers to vote for them using iPads) there are many creative and inspirational campaigns that can influence your own thought process on this subject.

Previous years have seen acts like Above & Beyond create entire fantastical narratives and short-films or live stunts to boost their ranking, whilst Hardwell’s Skydive stunt marked his success in 2013 and 2014, but the campaign we will be focusing on is how Nicky Romero’s creative team were sparked with the genius concepts of both Call Nicky and Play Nicky.

Using CM Telecom’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform and scalable web-hosting to win votes, Nicky Romero’s determination to improve his position on the DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ list for 2014 saw the Dutchman launch ‘Play Nicky’. The campaign was an idea from Protocol Management and realized together with User Experience (UX) and Product Design agency DARE TO DIFR.

The concept was simple: You will find a video of the DJ in his home on the promotional website After entering your phone number he will pick up the phone and call you. Over the phone Nicky asks you personally to vote for him during the upcoming DJ Mag Top 100 election. The entire experience was a perfectly synced web video and audio phone call.

“It is actually a clever combination of technologies”, explains web developer Peter Evrard. “At the moment the web software receives a new phone number it will start a video of Nicky calling you. When the call is established, CM’s Voice platform signals the website to play the video of Nicky talking and plays the audio file over the phone.”

“We had to produce this project on a very short time notice”, said Jerry Lieveld, chief creative and founder of DARE TO DIFR. “Protocol Management had the idea to globally activate the fans and we were asked to provide UI/UX design and do the technical implementation”.

The marketing campaign was shared with Nicky’s millions fans around the world using social media. Many fans were eager to hear their favourite DJ asking them to vote. This generates a significant peak load on both the Voice handling system as well as the video streaming service. CM is able to build upon years of experience handling very large voice projects such as the Eurovision Song Festival voting. The platform is built to handle extreme spikes in requests. Lieveld: “We really see a rising global trend in campaigns using voice or SMS as methods for activation. CM was able to help out here and provide the technical backend to realize this in a short time.”

In 2012 Nicky Romero was the highest new entrant on the DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs list. His success as professional DJ/Producer hasn’t remained unnoticed since, as in 2013 he managed to rise from 17 to 7 in the voting, and with the top 5 in sight, his team decided to push things further.

Explaining the concept, Jorik van de Pol, A&R and Digital Director at Protocol Management said: We as a team tried to come up with an idea that would really set us apart from what anyone else does at that time of year. For Nicky and for us, fan engagement is everything, and what we do is our priority and so rather than repeatedly asking fans to vote for Nicky, it was about giving people the opportunity to play with something over a period of time.

Martijn Zijerveld of Dare to Difr: “When Protocol Management approached us to see if we could help to take their idea to a flawless execution, both from a UX/UI design and a development perspective, we were excited as the story idea was great and was executable. Fan response and engagement has honestly been mesmerizing.”

Following on from 2014’s ingenious #callnicky campaign that had phones ringing off the hook, 2015 saw Nicky Romero and Protocol raise the bar even higher with their latest endeavour. Ever since Romero let slip that he was working on a videogame venture during Miami Music Week 2015, rumours were rife as to what could be expected from the Protocol ambassador. Soon, those questions were answered!

#PlayNicky was an 8-bit arcade game teaser which managed to whet fan’s appetites until the full version was released after the DJ Mag Top 100 poll ended. Kicking off in the Protocol studio, players had to race against the clock to get Nicky to Amsterdam in time to perform at his ADE show at Melkweg. With the pounding beats of Nicky’s huge hit ‘Toulouse’ setting the pace and picking up crucial members of his team along the way – from VJ Rick to tour manager Hatim – to add an extra element of difficulty as you climb up each level, you’re on a mission to navigate the streets and skies of the Netherlands and save Nicky from a very strict telling off from his manager!

A self-confessed videogame obsessive, it was only a matter of time before Dutch Superstar DJ & producer Nicky Romero took his hobby one step further, channelling one of his favourite pastimes into a creative and captivating campaign that had fans hooked from the off. Impossibly addictive, this beta version was just a tantalizing teaser of what was in store when the full version dropped. Genius marketing from both Nicky and his Protocol team, and a campaign that can provide your own creative team with inspirational ideas for your own DJ Mag campaigns in the future no doubt!