Music Critics Must Die: Songs in Commercials
Like everyone who loves music, Scott G has noticed the ad world’s insistence on borrowing old songs to set the mood for commercials. Is it because they’re too lame to come up with original music? And how much does it hurt the music business?
Okay, let’s begin with the morons who took “Viva Las Vegas” and wrote new lyrics praising a brand of erection medication. Yes, they are insignificant little twits who should never be hired again. But face it: some blame must go to the client’s idiotic marketing department.
Much the same can be said for the lamebrains who thought it would be funny to have no-talent actors sing (sort of) “Take My Breath Away” for what appears to be the train division of General Electric (?), the company that insults our intelligence every day by claiming they have any understanding of the term “imagination.” All the cretins involved with this travesty should never work in communications again.
Here on the West Coast, there is a loathsome furniture operation that has taken “Brick House” and changed the lyrics to include the name of their store. These people should be used for target practice by Dick Cheney.
Who’s Your Audience?
The problem of laziness in the creation of commercial soundtracks is rampant. Why bother developing a workable concept for your campaign when you can have a good laugh by slapping some visuals onto a song that everybody knows. Or at least everyone in the target demographic.
For example, ELO’s “Hold on Tight to Your Dream” is being used to hype one of the Honda automobiles. I can’t tell you which model because so much effort has been put into the distracting images behind the dimly-lit cars that it seems the advertiser doesn’t want us to notice the product itself. But the point about the music is that the auto must appeal to people over 30 since no one under that age is even aware of the song.
Some old songs don’t make any sense in the context of commercials. I’ve written about Iggy Pop’s sex and drug song “Lust for Life” being used for a cruise line campaign. Other people have questioned things like The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” for Diet Pepsi, Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” for Subaru, The O’Jays’ version of Gamble and Huff’s “Love Train” for a horrible brand of light beer, or Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” for a restaurant chain. Not to mention that cringe-worthy rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama” for KFC, Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible” for yet another restaurant chain, and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic” for a nationwide department store.
No Time to Think
Perhaps the problem lies in the work ethic of some large ad agencies. The conversation during their so-called brainstorming sessions might go like this:
“Hey, it’s almost time for happy hour, so does anybody have any ideas for the next campaign for our car, cruise, department store or restaurant account?”
“Haven’t a clue.”
“What about we get some songs that were popular about two decades ago and write up some b.s. rationale about core demographics and emotional resonance? The account execs could maybe earn their money by selling that nonsense to the clients.”
Pause while glances are exchanged and eyebrows raised.
“Works for me.”
Now, I’m not talking about the nifty use of new songs in commercials. Like putting Feist onto an iPod spot. Or Goldfrapp into Verizon and Target ads. Every music lover enjoys that. These spots serve as introductions to new music for millions of people who would normally be trying to ignore the spots for a gadget we already know about and avoid the hype for stores about which we already know too much.
Still, the problems of using existing songs in spots far outweigh the advantages. In fact, let me go even further: Advertisers and their agencies should never use songs in commercials. Unless it’s one of my songs, all available for licensing and ready for you at www.songsandsoundtracks.com (and conveniently arranged by genre, I might add). Ah yes, the profit motive. That’s why this happens to old songs. Sooner or later, every artist is susceptible to selling out.
[tags]commercials, commercial music, pop music, classic rock, original music[/tags]