Music in Commercials

When the Martin Agency first started making UPS Whiteboard commercials, their ironic choice to use the music of The Postal Service was well documented.  While I thought the song choice was a perfect selection for the quirky UPS ads, I also had a hard time getting past the band’s name to sell the services of USPS’s rival.

Music is a powerful ingredient in advertising.  And just like any kitchen recipe, the amount and intensity of an ingredient should be dependent on the balance of all the elements in the composition.  It can carry the recipe, or can complement it.  And of course in failed concoctions, it can overwhelm or underwhelm to work against the intended message.

Here are two commercials that ensnared my attention lately due to the musical components:

“Victory” McDonald’s spot for 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing
Music: Os Mutantes – A Minha Menina
Agency:  DDB Chicago

I downloaded this song within ten minutes of seeing the commercial.  That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the music: it was arresting, catchy, and put me on a mission to listen to it more.  I also love that the music tells the story completely and that there was no need for dialogue whatsoever.  Despite the strength of the music, I don’t think it overpowered the message.

Visa commercial
Music: Smashing Pumpkins – Today
Agency: TBWA

The Smashing Pumpkins have been getting a lot of flack for “selling out” this week by letting Visa use their music in this commercial.  Maybe they are selling out, maybe they aren’t, but the point is, TBWA picked a ’90s anthem which not only cuts through clutter, but also drives more attention to their brand because of the debate.  Plus the agency chose Morgan Freeman, who an AdWeek columnist names “the official voice of God in this age of mild Depression,” to narrate the commercial, making it even more memorable.  I think the song is an interesting choice and empowering, which I believe was TBWA’s and Visa’s intention.  I think the bad press is more catastrophic to the band than the brand, but I also believe that most of the general market will like or dislike the song while caring little about whether or not Billy Corgan and his band sold out.

I think both commercials successfully incorporated the music they chose and adequately conveyed their brand’s message, but the first one was a far better and more memorable commercial overall.

What songs have you seen in commercials lately that grabbed your attention?  Did they work for or against the brand?

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2 Comments

Filed under advertising, music

2 responses to “Music in Commercials

  1. I love Os Mutantes. Check out “Panis et Circenses.

    This isn’t a recent example, but I think the most hilarious misuse of a song in a commercial is when McDonald’s used “New Slang” by The Shins in an ad. “New slang when you notice the stripes, the dirt in your fries.” “God speed all the bakers at dawn/may they all cut their thumbs/
    And bleed into their buns ’till they melt away.” Tasty!

  2. You know, if you ever get stuck and wonder which song a particular commercial has in it, a great resource is http://www.findthatsong.net. I found out about it a while back when this song from one of the Old Navy spots wouldn’t get out of my head.

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