Tag Archives: Jingles

Where Have All the Jingles Gone?

In Defense of the Commercial Jingle

commercial_jinglesThere was a time when advertisers packaged their marketing messages within the lyrics and melodies of songs written specifically for TV commercials. The songs came to be known as jingles because they were catchy, singable tunes. Today, commercial jingles have essentially disappeared from American TV advertising. Advertisers now are more sophisticated. The jingle is seen as a corny, throwback to a time when viewers would accept a sing-songy tune written about a product.

Modern Day Branding
These days TV advertisers seek to position their product within the “lifestyle” of their target market. The task is to create an ad campaign that reflects this lifestyle. Television commercials today often don’t even mention the product, you just see happy people using it, hopefully, dressed the way you do. The implication is; they use it – you should use it too.

If the target market is baby boomers, the commercials borrow heavily from pop tunes from the 1970s (Cadillac uses Led Zeppelin’s Rock ‘n Roll). If it’s a younger market, then the tune is borrowed from the 1990s or 2000s. Some new and relatively unknown bands have even been launched to greater popular acclaim because one of their songs was used in a TV commercial.

So yes, creating ads around lifestyle choices is more sophisticated. But does it sell the product? After all, that’s what these things are supposed to do. They’re supposed to sell.

The problem with making branding all about style is – everyone is basically branding the same one or two styles. How does a consumer differentiate between all of these similar messages? They all just blur together. Products are wrapped in the images and sounds of our shared popular culture. The ads are smart, hip and chic but in the end, they all blend into a reflection of a single modern lifestyle. Everything is the same. This is not what TV advertising should be.

We all hear famous songs grafted into ad campaigns, we may even like the commercial, but do we necessarily remember the product? Here is a list of pop songs used in TV advertising within the past 12 months (this article was originally published in our newsletter in 2005). Can you name the product?

Dust In the Wind by Kansas
Rufus Wainwright covering The Beatles’ song “Across the Universe.”
Live Richly by Spice Girls
100 Years by Five for Fighting
Vertigo by U2
One Way or Another by Blondie
Love Sick by Bob Dylan
Picture Book by the Kinks

Commercial jingles have been forgotten. They’re out of style. A decision has been made
by marketers that jingles are not the right way to reach the modern demographic.

Jingles are obviously not as cool, nor do they have the cache of a hit record, an Eminem track for instance, but advertising jingles actually sell the product for which they were created. Chances are better that a viewer will remember the product when it is presented through a jingle. “Remember the product” – that’s what an advertisement should do.

Remember these old commercial jingles?…

Rotorouter that’s the name
And away go troubles
Down the Drain

When you say Bud,
You’ve said a lot of things nobody else can say
When you say Bud,
You’ve said you care enough to only want the king of beers
When you say Budweiser,
You’ve said it all

If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer
Miller tastes too good to hurry through

Hershey, the great American chocolate bar…br>

My baloney has a first name
It’s O S C A R
My baloney has a second name
It’s M A Y E R
Oh, I love to eat it everyday
And if you ask me why I’ll say
Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B O L O G N A

If you’ve ever heard these jingles, you were, no doubt, humming the tunes as you were reading the text (you are also probably over 35 years old). Some of these commercial jingles are 30 years old and some of you still remember these products and their TV ads. That’s branding, isn’t it?

Vigilante Saves the Day…
Here in Brooklyn New York, there’s a local company, Vigilante Plumbing, that advertises on cable TV. Their TV commercial uses a jingle. It is a low-budget, corny – actually, it’s so bad, it makes you laugh – it’s a take-off on a Spaghetti-western style soundtrack. I’ve heard people sing this jingle while waiting in ATM bank lines, always to great snickering by others also waiting. When a Vigilante Plumbing truck drives by, I’ve heard pedestrians start singing the Vigilante jingle back at the truck as it passes, laughing as they sing.

But what great advertising this jingle has been! Ask anyone in Brooklyn, (population 2.5 million) about a plumber, – they’re going to tell you Vigilante Plumbing. Vigilante didn’t have to go license “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel. They used a low-budget, kitschy song and they are the top-of-mind plumbing outfit in a city of 2.5 million. Not bad.

Maybe there’s a meeting point between this example and the ultra-chic marketing we see every day. Maybe an advertising jingle can even be cool. Jingles have been off-the-radar for so long now, that perhaps the young creative at a Madison Avenue ad agency that comes up with a cool jingle
will actually appear to have a fresh idea.

Sergio Zyman was the chief marketing officer for the Coca-Cola Company in the 1980s. His book, The End of Marketing As We Know It, speaks to the disconnect affecting TV advertisers more concerned with building images than selling products.

Marketers who haven’t made the connection between creating images and selling products often don’t do a very good job at either of them. … But too many marketers pay too much attention to the people in their ad agencies who talk about production values, WOW concepts and winning awards and they don’t think enough about their objective and how the images they create are going to help or hurt them in achieving sales. They don’t really understand what goes into branding and positioning, or what branding and positioning need to do. So, the images they create are fuzzy, irrelevant, or boring.

Marketers are making a big mistake when they hide behind the concept of building images so that they won’t be held accountable for producing any results It’s pure baloney, or worse, to suggest that marketing isn’t about selling products and making money.

My all-time favorite commercial jingle is from my childhood and featured a character named Choo Choo Charlie. The product was Good and Plenty candy.

Once upon a time there was an engineer
Choo Choo Charlie was his name, we hear.
He had an engine and he sure had fun
He used Good & Plenty candy to make his train run.
Charlie says, “Love my Good & Plenty!”
Charlie says, “Really rings my bell!”
Charlie says, “Love my Good & Plenty!”
Don’t know any other candy that I love so well!

I still remember the commercial, the animation, the song, the product. I don’t remember anything about the commercials I saw last night.

Behind the Most Hated (and Best) Jingle of All Time

End of Marketing As We Know It

The End of Marketing As We Know It by Sergio Zyman

Remember the New Coke? A disaster, right? Or how about the commercial where “Mean” Joe Greene meets a little kid holding a bottle of Coke? A masterpiece, right? Wrong, on both counts. Sergio Zyman, who was the chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola, will tell you that while the New Coke nose-dived, it – and the subsequent reintroduction of Coke Classic – helped to reconnect people to the soft drink and revitalize a brand that was losing market share to Pepsi. And as for “Mean” Joe Greene, while people loved the ad, it wasn’t doing what good marketing should do: sell a product, which is what Zyman’s book, The End of Marketing As We Know It, is all about.

If you have a business and need to market your products in any way, then this book will make enlightened reading.


Who Killed the Jingle?How a Unique American Art Form Disappeared
By Steve Karmen

Did Madison Avenue get too sophisticated for its own good? Too cheap? Too sneaky? In its quest to combat the technology that allows the viewer to “zap” the commercials, “tune out,” or eliminate advertising, did the advertising world invent “integration” (putting the product into the programming) rather than make the commercials lovable, hummable units of entertainment themselves? Karmen explores the demise of the advertising music business and why the future of advertising is so precarious.

How a commercial jingle powers FreeCreditReport.com’s successful ads

FreeCreditReport.com is running at least six commercials featuring a down-on-their-luck rock band singing in various settings bemoaning the fact that their credit is bad. The actors are obviously musically talented, the drummer actually knows how to play drums, you can tell by looking at him. I found out that the singer is a French-Canadian actor/musician named Eric Violette, (it’s not actually his voice we hear though, he’s lip-syncing).

I think these are very strong ads. They feature the time-tested, but somehow out-of-favor Commercial Jingle. A jingle is a song written expressly for a commercial. The music and words of a jingle are directly targeted to sell the product. When I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, jingles were the way most products were marketed on television. Most people of my generation can still recite or hum the jingles from that time.

Jingles gradually lost favor with advertisers and were replaced by what we all now hear every day on TV – the licensed pop song put in service of a product. I’ve written before about why I don’t like this method of advertising. I call it “lifestyle” advertising, where the marketer tries to create an ad that will connect with to the viewer’s sense of identity, therefore, connecting to the product too. Using a pop song is the fastest/easiest way to do this. If you can connect your brand with a song by Wilco, for instance, that’s a valuable cultural connection to make for your product. Your product can now live in the same cultural space that the songs of Wilco inhabit appealing to fans of that music and others that want a sense of the contemporary.

In actuality, I do not think this type of ad is very effective because when the spot gets placed into the ad mix that viewers see on a typical TV day, the lifestyle that the ad is portraying gets merged with all the other lifestyles from all the other lifestyle ads and the spots’ message gets merged as well into this jumble of lifestyle imagery and pop hits. The products, however, don’t get defined and their identities and marketing messages get muddled. Â Viewers recognize the pop tunes but the connections to the products are lost. Even with repetition, I believe these ads are a weak way to sell the product.

Jingles, on the other hand, are written directly for the product. A good jingle campaign, like the FreeCreditCard.com ads, will brand the company name right into the song. A successful ad will, over time, have viewers singing along with the jingle, either subconsciously or even overtly.

Lately, I’ve heard a few fresh jingle campaigns.Optimum’s Reggaeton Jingle and also AAMCO’s I Got A Guy campaign use jingles. I am willing to bet that these ad campaigns were very successful as well.

I was at a cocktail party last New Year’s and I was talking to a young advertising executive and I asked him why jingles lost favor. His response was interesting. He said that more often than not, it is the client, not the ad agency, that is pushing for the high-priced licensed pop song. He explained it as the client getting bragging rights for the company. They are able to boast to the industry and their competition that they have gone out and licensed a multi-million dollar hit song for their latest campaign. To me, this is to lose sight of the goal of the campaign, which is to sell, no?

1-877-Kars-4-Kids: Behind the Most Hated (and Best) Jingle of All Time

Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

How Advertisers Use New Music to Target the Young Female Demographic

I’m a big fan of the commercial jingle as a method of advertising.  I think jingles sell better than their much over-used alternative – the licensed hit song. Jingles are written directly for the ad and, to me, tend to create better campaigns.

Jingles from years past were slickly produced by top-notch studio musicians and professional jingle (commercial) writers.  New York City was the capital of jingle production and for decades there was a lively industry (recording studios, the music union, writers, performers) devoted to turning out jingle recordings.  That industry is almost completely gone now.

What’s replaced it is the solo singer-songwriter.  Not a famous voice, but a young performer with a very individual sound.  These commercials have a quirky, low-fi, indie, DIY feel.  Some very smart ad executives have discovered that this type of soundtrack really sells.

There’s recently been a slew of commercials employing this approach. For instance, listen to this commercial for Truvia.

Here are the lyrics.

I loved you sweetness, but you’re not sweet you made my butt fat
You drove me insane, self-control down the drain
We’re over, I’m so done with that
I found a new love, a natural, true love, that comes from a little green leaf
Zero calories, guilt free no artificiality, my skinny jeans zipped in relief
Its name is Truvia, I had no idea, no more sprinkling my coffee with grief.

Now the singing of this commercial is pretty, let’s say… idiosyncratic. Some might say amateur, off-key, or just bad.  But I think, if the commercial works, and it does to me, that the performance of the song adds a huge dimension to the spot.  It’s actually the minimal melody and the phrasing of the lyrics that makes this so quirky.  The singing is not really in sync with the guitar playing. It’s more like she’s talking or it’s stream-of-consciousness not really in rhythm.

The target audience for this commercial is younger women. It’s got a light, fun, innocent mood to it. It comes off as honest. There’s a playful sense of humor. That’s appealing. Capturing honesty in a TV ad is a hard thing to do.

Here’s another ad, this time from Bisquick.

We see a young mother preparing pancakes for her two children.  The lyrics reflect the thoughts of the children.

There’s one thing I’ll eat, any time of day
Dawn till sunset, I’ll never walk away
Blueberry pancakes, so good

The jingle creates a happy, laid-back, Saturday-morning vibe.

Here’s a recent campaign for the Subaru Outback.

I’ve been looking and looking my whole life through
Trying to find my way back to you
Cause I love you, I do
Cause I love you, I do

In this ad, the husband loses the car and basically creates a situation where the couple is stuck in the desert.  He’s meandering around with his keys.  And in the background, the woman is singing “I love you I do” but in an ironic, semi-tolerant way. (she rolls her eyes).

This is marketing directly to women.  I like the ads but I’m not the target of these products.  The Subaru Outback ad is targeting young couples slanting the ad towards the mom or wife.

The appeal of these jingles is their innocence and honesty.  Having a solo singer, accompanied only with a guitar, singing in an individual style is what gives these spots their charm.  It’s the exact opposite of what jingle advertising used to be and it comes off as fresh and youthful.

It’s hard for an ad or a corporation to capture innocence.  One way to do that is to use original music from an unknown source.  There is an anonymity to these jingles.  We don’t recognize the voices, the production is minimal, some even sound tossed-off with no real effort.  This low-fi approach adds to the overall effectiveness of the ads (It reminds me of films like Juno which came out of nowhere with unknown stars with a fresh new take on storytelling).

About the performers/writers

The Bisquick jingle is written and performed by Frances England She’s actually a kids music performer.

The Subaru Outback ad is by Miss Erika Davies

I couldn’t find the singer for this Truvia jingle (what is listed on YouTube is for an earlier commercial, not the one cited in this post).

If you have any comments or thoughts about this advertising trend, please post them as comments.  How about this.  How do you feel about ads that create a mood of innocence and honesty to sell?  The purpose of any ad is to influence (some might say manipulate) behavior.  These ads do that while pretending to be rather casual, even improvised.  The tone masks the intention (or not?).  What do your think

How Pop Songs Become TV Ads

  • Devo re-records their biggest hit “Whip it good” as “Swiff it good” in a TV ad for the floor cleaner Swiffer.
  • The Beatles song “All you need is love” is licensed by Luvs who use it for their campaign, “All You Need is Luvs”
  • “Blister In the Sun ” by the Violent Femmes, a seminal punk bank, is used in an ad campaign for Wendy’s hamburgers.
  • This summer Wilco licenses 6 songs from their new album Blue Sky Blue to Volkswagen who uses all 6 songs in ad spots for their latest campaign marking the first time a multitude of songs by one artist/band is used in a single campaign.

Where is today’s cash cow for the music business? It’s the placing of famous or upcoming pop songs in TV commercials. We’ve all heard and seen these ads. Led Zepplin’s “Rock’n Roll” has become the main branding vehicle (no pun) for Cadillac. The ad speaks to those 40-year-olds that can now afford Cadillacs by co-opting an anthem from their youth.

There’s no doubt the trend will continue. Commercial jingles are a thing of the past. Today’s ad strategy is about branding. You put a product, no matter how bland, next to a song that has a “coolness” factor to it, or, in the case of the Beatles “All You Need is Love”, acknowledged cultural value, and voila, the product achieves instant significance or even hipness.

But by glorifying a product, no matter how banal, the song is immediately devalued. If today’s protest song can be tomorrow’s theme for toilet tissue, then the power of a song to effect culture becomes weakened. The power of the song becomes about how much money it commands when it is licensed for commercial use.

The Culture Is the Commercial

Jay Babcock, the publisher of the art and music magazine Arthur makes this point…

“What kind of culture sets up a system where the only way to hear good music is through TV commercials for products you don’t need?” Babcock said. “What little art is out there has to sneak in wherever it can, being stand-ins for jingles. It’s the sign of an unhealthy culture. The culture is eating itself.”

A recent New York Post article reports that the recording artist Fergie recently inked a $4-million deal to sing about Candie’s teen apparel on her next album. “The 32-year-old Black Eyed Peas singer is the first global star to consent to product placement in her songs – agreeing to include the provocative clothing line Candie’s in her lyrics.”

I don’t know that this matters to some bands, they are living in a music business that is sinking into chaos by the day and they are looking for cash, a reward for their work. When Wilco, a major act, licenses 6 songs to Volkswagen saying they are doing it as a way to get their music out there, you know the music business has drastically changed and these artists are looking for the type of payday that used to be available to successful bands through albums/radio play/touring. That old model of success is, apparently, broken.

According to Greg Lane, senior vice president of ad agency GSD&M in Austin, Texas, ad pop is a mutually beneficial relationship. “It’s a marriage of two brands. It’s the client’s brand, be it AT&T or iPod, as well as the brand of the band itself,”Lane said.

“Part of the deal is, you’re never going to make everyone happy. And there’s no such thing as bad press. Even if fans are upset, it might not affect sales of what’s being advertised “it might increase sales.”

The artist does pay a price for dealing in “ad pop”. Their fan base can get turned off and look for music elsewhere.

As the great musician Tom Waits says “By turning a great song into a jingle, advertisers have achieved the ultimate: a meaningless product has now been injected with your meaningful memory of a song,” he said. “The songs and the artists who have created them have power and cultural value, that’s why advertisers pay out millions for them. Once you have taken the cash, you, your song and your audience are forever married to the product.”

Wilco song in Volkswagen commercial

Of Montreal song “Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games” re-recorded with the words changed to “Let’s go Outback tonight” for Outback Steakhouse

More on this subject…

Under the Influence: The Pop Song as Advertising

Where have all the Jingles Gone

How an ultra-addictive Jingle powered Optimum’s Reggaeton ad campaign

More evidence that the commercial jingle is making a comeback can be found in Cablevision’s campy ad for its Optimum’s Triple Play service (High-Speed Internet, Digital Cable TV & Digital Phone Services).

The jingle uses the upbeat dance style Reggaeton to create a fun, over-the-top spot that targets the urban, Latin American market. Reggaeton – a dance style that blends Jamaican reggae and dancehall with Latin American dance rhythms, hip hop, and electronica – first gained popularity in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican musicians and producers have spread the music to the U.S.

It’s a jingle. The music is original and was written specifically to underscore the important elements of Cablevision’s Optimum campaign. The addictive part of it, and the part that seems to be most resonating with viewers is the chanting of the toll-free phone number – the “8–7–7-3-9-3–4-4-4–EIGHT”.

Here are some comments pulled from YouTube, Yahoo and other sites.

lmao i love that commercial.. its catchy lol.. i can’t even memorize my boyfriends number that fast..
HAHAHAHA I Love this song everyone sings it in school

When I was sick in bed this was the only thing that kept going through my head “877 393 444 EIIIIGHT!” I want to kill them.

This is GREAT!! Especially love when the hot mami’s sing,. “8–7–7-3-9-3–4-4-4–EIGHT!!!” Great!
there is no point to this video but i love it it is so funny!!!

When viewers are laughing and teasing each other with your commercial and the music, the jingle, has embedded your toll-free number into their consciousness, then you have hit – an advertising grand slam.

Yes, there are negative comments about the commercial as well but they are mostly complaints about frequency. The ad is being shown a lot. It is currently bombarding the NYC market. But again, the frequency is probably driven by the ad’s apparent success.

I’ve been writing about jingles lately because I believe their power has been neglected by creatives at ad agencies. Jingles have an uncool or old-fashioned stigma and have, until recently, been ignored.

Taken individually, lifestyle spots, which typically license hit songs from the 1970s/80s/90s pop catalog as their soundtrack, seem creative and funny but they run into problems when watched one-after-another during a commercial break. The ads tend to blur together. Instead of shining a light on the product, the overall effect is weakened by a slew of similar approaches. Everyone is branding the same upbeat lifestyle. There is no product differentiation. The commercial goes to great lengths to keep viewers entertained but it forgets its actual purpose.

Jingles, on the other hand, get right to the point and directly sell your campaign.   8–7–7-3-9-3–4-4-4–EIGHT!

Under the Influence – Advertising & Music Licensing

[this article was originally published in our Newsletter in Spring of 2004]

Licensing Pop Songs into TV Commercials
Every music soundtrack tries to stimulate viewer emotions. Its role is to amplify the meaning and effectiveness of a scene. However, using a popular hit song in a TV commercial is often more of an attempt by the advertiser to hijack the meaning of the song, and the history a listener has with it, and re-frame that onto the product being advertised.

The song has nothing to do with the product. In most cases, their messages are diametrically
opposed. Case in point, the famous Cadillac ad campaign that used Led Zeppelin’s song “Rock’n Roll”.

Led Zeppelin’s “Rock’n Roll”, was originally released in 1971. It had absolutely nothing to do with driving a Cadillac or any type of corporate sponsorship. In fact, it’s a song about sexual yearning. With its pumping rhythm, and forceful vocal it uses “rock’n roll” in its original slang meaning (for sex).

It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled,
It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll.
Ooh, let me get it back, let me get it back,
Let me get it back, baby, where I come from.
It’s been a long time, been a long time,
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.

Another example of simply cutting a few lines out of a song and grafting it onto an ad concept is Royal Caribbean’s “Lust for Life” campaign. It uses the Iggy Pop/David Bowie song “Lust for Life”. I can’t decide if this one is insidious or just stupid.

By using this song as music for their ad, Cadillac is able to harvest the emotions and collective memory of millions of viewers who already have huge pre-existing associations with that song. They hope viewers will transfer that identification into positive feelings for the car. The ad is aimed at 40/50-year-olds (Cadillac’s main demographic) and promises a less encumbered, more spontaneous, and fun lifestyle. In short, it sells them back their youth.

Here’s the campaign slogan –

Get Out There and satisfy your lust for life on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
(The commercial just plays a fragment of the song)

But here is the first verse of the song…

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease.
Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
I’ve been hurting since I’ve bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love.
Well, that’s like hypnotizing chickens.
Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before.
I have a lust for life
’cause of a lust for life.

Putting pop songs in advertising is highly effective. Led Zeppelin’s “Rock’n Roll” has become the major branding tool for Cadillac’s fleet. Chevy Truck has used Bob Segar’s “Like A Rock” for over 15 years. Ad agencies are combing through 40 years of pop hits trying to get musical hooks that will act as slogans for their products. Songs attach a coolness to a product that no amount of ad copy can.This song is about, among other things, using heroin! A fragment of a song about heroin use has been clipped out of its context and used to sell……cruise vacations! It’s a total misrepresentation of the music (or perhaps Royal Caribbean has booked Johnny Yen to be activities director on its cruises).

At best this approach is simplistic rather than malicious or sinister. If the song has a lyrical refrain that matches an ad slogan then it is fair game to be clipped out of its context and laid into the ad to support the brand. It works, it sells stuff, but at what cost?

Today, it seems nothing is off limits to advertisers. A famous photo of Gandhi is co-opted by Apple computer to sell iMacs. We are made to associate Queen’s “We are the Champions” with Viagra, the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”” with Nissan Maxima, the Beatles “Come Together” with Nortel Networks.

To survive and grow, all businesses must advertise. But are there limits? Are all images, icons, and songs now nothing more than available content to be reformulated to commercial advantage?

Nowadays the colonization of Sixties rebellion by corporate America is part of the wallpaper of our consumer culture. Rolling Stones songs sell Snickers Bars, and the Who’s generational anthem about a “Teenage Wasteland” is used in a commercial for SUVs. The GAP stores in the
mall use countercultural icons such as James Dean, Jack Kerouac, and Joni Mitchell to sell clothes…      ** From the lecture Apathy, Alienation, and Activism: American Culture and the Depoliticization of Youth by Matt Lassiter, Prof. History, University of Michigan, Jan/2004

No Retreat, No Surrender at the Democratic Convention 2004
When John Kerry took the podium to give his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention this July, he was accompanied by a recording of Bruce Springsteen singing the song “No Surrender” from the classic Born in the USA album.

The big message at the Democratic convention was “John Kerry=Strength”. Springsteen’s song was chosen because together with the powerful driving music of the E Street Band, the song’s lyrics created a strong, confident atmosphere in the convention hall.

We made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter’s night with
A vow to defend, no retreat, no surrender

“Bruce Springsteen has it right. No retreat. No surrender. We are taking this fight to the country, and we are going to win back our democracy and our future,” Kerry had said before arriving at the convention.

The song “No Surrender” is not about the presidency, politics or Democrats. True, it celebrates strength, but it is the strength of the maverick, the independent, the kid who never fits in with the crowd. It is a song that gives the finger to the conventional and the mainstream. In “No Surrender” the singer longs for excitement, the exceptional – something wild.

It begins…

We busted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record
than we ever learned in school

The Republican party will do the same thing but with artists that reflect their own values. A popular song will no doubt be used to elevate the emotional appeal of the important Republican themes (You can bet it won’t be the music of Bruce Springsteen though. The Boss is planning an anti-Bush tour of the U.S. during the coming election season). To make the song fit their agenda, the Democratic Party had to re-cast it as a song about confidence and power. Snip, snip, lift the chorus, ignore the context and..instant campaign slogan.

You Say You Want a Sneaker Revolution?
It all began with Nike’s infamous use of the Beatles song “Revolution” in their 1987 ad campaign for the Air Max shoe. This TV commercial set the standard and supplies the blueprint for all music for advertising that followed.

  • It loots one of the greatest musical catalogs of the 20th century (the Beatles)
  • It corrupts one of the strongest anti-establishment songs ever written (Revolution)
  • It re-frames the context of the song, forcing it to become a branding vehicle for a product.

Phil Knight, Nike CEO remembers –In 1987 Reebok was the No. 1 sneaker company worldwide. Because of the “Revolution” ad campaign, which combined an exceptional Beatles performance with images of a young Michael Jordan wearing Nike Air shoes, Nike was able to regain the number 1 position. It has been there
ever since.

Nike “got a ton of criticism” for using the Beatles’ Revolution song as the ad’s anthem, but the company found its voice with the spot. “When we started out, we couldn’t make up our minds what kind of advertising we wanted. We had different messages for different groups, but there was no overarching theme. “Revolution” captured everything we wanted to do.”

(from “Fond Memories for Past Nike Ads” USA Today, 6/16/2003)

John Lennon wrote “Revolution” in 1968 while studying transcendental meditation in India with the Maharishi Mahesh.

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
we all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright

Advertising and Music
Michael Jackson (the gloved one) who owns the publishing rights to the Beatles catalog licensed the song to Nike against the wishes of Paul McCartney. As McCartney said when the Nike ads appeared… “the song was about revolution, not bloody tennis shoes.”

All pop songs that are used in TV commercials must be licensed by the advertiser . Last month’s article addressed how the licensing process works.  If you missed the article, you can read it here.

Selling the Sizzle By Sara Minogue in Canada’s Exclaim Magazine – Great article about the use of pop songs in advertising. The article focuses on some younger bands and their feelings about licensing their music to advertisers. For some its a smart career move. This article concludes with a list of bands and the commercials that feature their music. Here’s a small sample…

The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” for Nissan Pathfinder
Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side” for Honda Scooter
Nick Drake “Pink Moon” for VW; “Know” for Nike
The Rolling Stones “She’s A Rainbow” for Apple iMac;
“Start Me Up” for Microsoft
Blur “Song 2” for Labatt Blue, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan Sentra
The Who “Bargain” for Nissan Sentra;
“Baba O’Reily” for Nissan Polo;
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” for Nissan Maxima
Bob Segar’s “Like A Rock” for Chevrolet
Sting “Desert Rose” (and Sting appears) for Jaguar
The Clash “London Calling” for Jaguar
Madonna “Ray of Light” for Microsoft
AC/DC “Back in Black” for The Gap

AdTunes – a great database of music used in TV ads. “What was the music used in that film teaser trailer?” Now you can find the answer at Adtunes.com – the weblog of information on music from TV ads, movie trailers, and more.

Apathy, Alienation, and Activism: American Culture and the Depoliticization of Youth a lecture by the University of Michigan History Prof. Matt Lassiter given in January 2004. Discusses the commercialization of 1960s radicalism.