The regular readers amongst you will be aware that when it comes to covers in ads I am more than a little sceptical. There are two main reasons for this:
1. Covers of tracks that were the soundtrack to my youth, the originals are always better;
2. John Lewis Christmas Ads.
I was a little concerned when I heard that for the new Lynx ad Big Sync Music had chosen a cover of Guns & Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle”. John Lewis’ cover of The Smiths was bad enough but could I cope with this truly massive track from Axel and Co. being reinvented? And if the idea of the cover wasn’t challenging enough then factor in that it has been done by a fella called Novo Amor who is known for his “captivating ethereal, folk songs” rather than aggressive metal moments.
You know what, I think this is a brave and impressive cover. I don’t know which came first, the visuals or the music, but they work beautifully together. The surreal, filmic nature of the ad makes the reimagining of “Welcome to the Jungle” fit comfortably. The track is challenging which fits well with Lynx’s move away from its Lads Mag past.
Am I going to re-evaluate my issues with covers? Nah, after all John Lewis is currently planning their Christmas 2015 ad which I am sure will feature some version of a pop track from the 90s. But what I will do is acknowledge that covers can be really good if someone sticks their neck out and tries something a little more challenging.
Now, enough about the cover, its time for a classic.
The dream of any music agency is to become the single supplier of a massive conglomerate and today Big Sync Music announced they are in dreamland by becoming the exclusive supplier of music services to Unilever.
It is a big step for Unilever, a massive opportunity for Big Sync and a huge challenge for both as of them as they try to herd all their marketing agencies through a single music channel. But as long as the agencies play nicely then Unilever will now be in a position to implement effective sonic branding strategy across countries, territories and the world. It is a bold move for Unilever to commit to a single supplier but a sensible one as they now have the capability to create consistent and efficient identities for their brands and develop music strategies that are global marketing campaigns in their own right.
Exciting and exhausting times ahead for Big Sync Music. Now please wash your hands.
Here is the full story in Music Week.
I know it is Christmas and I should be focusing on the enormous budgets of the big supermarket and perfume campaigns but through a combination of events I’ve skipped the lead up to Santa’s big day. In summary, Sainsbury’s got beaten up for exploiting the Great War, John Lewis went merchandising crazy, Tesco took use back to a brighter past with Flashdance, Aldi got out the crown Jools and the list goes on. I would say it is a mixed Santa sack this year, some big budget, some more sensible, some very safe, some just safe.
Sitting amongst all things festive there was this little bundle of joy in the form of the new Freeview ad from Leo Burnett. Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” is the kind of track that sets a real challenge to ad creatives. It is a huge song, massively uncool and yet everyone knows the words, immediately sings along and deep down loves it. How do you make an ad that isn’t in the shadow of the music? How do you avoid using the track as a backing to some schmaltzy montage of sad then happy beautiful people?
They have overcome all the challenges and created a piece of creative that should become the official music video, the competition for this role is not fierce, just see below. In field dominated by big budget Christmas ads it is hard to grab people’s attention but the Singing Toys have managed it, who doesn’t love the bit with the Wrestler toy. Well done Freeview and Leo Burnett, you have made Christmas better without even mentioning it.
While deep down I’m hoping that Christmas isn’t just around the corner, that would mean 2014 is all but done, it is hard to ignore the fact that Santa is on his way when the big budget Christmas ads start appearing. Like last year let’s start with Debenhams.
The ad depicts a bunch of kids in a closed department store looking for stuff they want to receive for Christmas. I’m sure if this was taking place in Tottenham it would be called looting but don’t worry they are all in the their pyjamas and dressing gowns and this is crime Debenhams style. But wait, the soundtrack to this jolly caper is the socialist anthem “We All Stand Together” by Sir Paul McCartney and Rupert Bear, so I think we should take this japery a little more seriously. Clearly these kids in their nice fluffy slippers are working as a team, coordinating the whole thing through Snapchat and BBM, and while the cameras are on they are only going for the cuddly toys but I bet they later moved on to TVs and trainers.
What is Debenhams saying with this music choice? Is this a rallying cry for the disenfranchised youth of today? Unlikely. “We All Stand Together” is certainly festive, after all it charted two Christmases in a row back in the 80’s, plus it has a choir. The problem is that nothing about this ad is surprising it feels like a Christmas shopping list written in May and completed in September. Maybe they could have tied the visual more to the music or possibly done something new with the song but as it is I’m not convinced I’ll be heading to Debenhams to do my Christmas shopping, after all I could be pick-pocketed by the Artful Dodger and his mates.
If you can’t face being a witness to the mindless looting of a Debenhams, simply watch the original video featuring the wonderful dapper Rupert Bear in a swamp.
I recently sat with a colleague to listen to track for an ad for which the brief had been “it should be in the style of [Unnamed Artist]”. We both agreed that while the track was far enough away from a track by [Unnamed Artist] if you played them back to back the average person in the street would probably not be able to tell them apart. The conclusion of the conversation was let’s not make some lawyers rich and break the news to the client that we’ll need to redo the track. The client was probably slightly over the annoyed line but I reckon that had they been slammed with a massive copyright infringement lawsuit by a label then they would have been slightly over the totally furious and looking to fire us line.
So it did amuse me this morning when the same colleague told me to check out the latest Hugo Boss ad. I’m not sure who in the agency reckoned that nobody would notice the ridiculous similarities between the ad track and the fairly widely known XX track “Intro”.
This is going to be one to watch. Whoever signed off the music is either hoping nobody notices the similarities, well that ain’t happening as Rolling Stone Magazine has just reported on this, or that the XX’s label won’t want to take on the mighty Hugo Boss, item one on today’s to-do list will definitely be speak to legal. The whole thing just seems a so lazy by both the creatives and the account management, hiding in plain sight doesn’t always work.
When choosing or creating the right music for an ad it is often cheaper to spend money. The cheap option is often the most expensive, I’m sure you’ll find some metaphor there for modern fashion brands but I’ll leave that in your hands. I’m not going to start talking the irony of cheap rip offs.
This could get uncomfortable for someone but its OK because they’ll be able to hide behind their massive Hugo Boss sunglasses.
Right. I’ve had a break immersing myself in the world of brand licensing for a week, more on that later, and now I can get back to the tunes. Three have unleashed this new ad on the UK and it is pure joy. I was lucky enough to work on the Three brand when it was being conjured up, back when 3G was very sci-fi, because they understood the importance of sonic branding. Then the realities of the very competitive UK mobile market kicked in and their advertising became very utilitarian, i.e. cheap ads about cheap tariffs. Now they are back to singing and dancing.
Last year they gave us a pony dancing to Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” and it racked up over 8.5million views on YouTube. So for 2014 they give us a girl and a cat singing Starship’s “We Built This City”. We could examine the exploration of the brand’s values through music or the selection of the perfect sync but you know what I’m simply going suggest you enjoy Three’s Silly Stuff campaign and its contribution to the Cat genre on YouTube. It would be nice to see if next year they can come up with some creative using a Blobfish and The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now“.
Day one of MIDEM had quite a lot going on but the thing that was most worthy of analysis was the presentation by Olivier François, the Head of Fiat Brand, who oversees an impressive portfolio of car brands including Fiat, Chrysler and Jeep. At this point it makes sense to mention that Olivier loves his music. So with that in mind you will not be surprised to find out that places a lot of value on music and brand relationships. He works on the understanding that if a track is not perfect for an ad it is better to have silence.
To make life simpler Mr François believes there are five levels of music and brand relationships and here they are.
Level 1 – The Basic Sync. Simply find the right track and borrow it for an ad. There’s not much that I can add to this, it is what it is.
Level 2 – Co-partnering with an artist. This time you find a track for an ad and work out how to create mutual benefits from using it in a marketing campaign. The JLo and Fiat 500 ad for example. JLo got a music video and a load of free promotion for the track and Fiat got a celebrity endorsement and a track for their ad. Or how about the Lenny Kravitz and Jeep ad that worked on the same basis. This is basic but effective stuff with both parties getting a lot of added value for their respective products. The key thing is making sure the partnership makes sense, if the consumer doesn’t believe that the star would use the product then the impact is weakened.
Level 3 – Triangle between product (brand), artist and a common interest. The examples of this go beyond media platforms and expand the relationship between music and brand into physical product. Beats exclusive partnership with Chrysler and Fiat has created added value to the cars and delivered opportunities for marketing campaigns featuring Will.i.am and Dre. Or how about the Chrysler “Motown” which lead to a partnership with the Motown Broadway musical and each branded car being delivered with the best 100 Motown songs preloaded into its media player. These are both pretty tidy multi-platform partnerships which provide plenty of opportunities to add value for the brand, its music partner and the consumer.
Then there is the latest triangle featuring our old friend P.Diddy/Diddy/Puffy/Brian. The ad features Brian, his new water brand Aqua Hydrate, his new music TV station Revolt and Fiat, the soundtrack is the new Fiat brand anthem, Pharrell’s Happy. Lets pause here for a second. A brand has 30-60 seconds of your time to sell you a product and at best the audience is only giving you their partial attention so having so many brands on screen will have an impact on the effectiveness for this relationship triangle. So forgive me for thinking that the new Fiat / Brian ad may struggle on the recall front but at least it is funny now that Brian has become a pretty decent actor.
Level 4 – Music videos that feature the car. With the music industry pleading poverty Francois uses product placement as a lifeline for music videos. Car brands are constantly creating content for their various media platforms so it makes sense for them to offer up the footage to artists looking to pad out their music videos and reduce production costs. You can see how it works in the video for Pitbull’s “Sexy People” which links up nicely with the Fiat’s advertising narrative about cars travelling to the US from Italy. Product placement in music videos is very hit and miss at the moment, it is often annoyingly obvious but more frustratingly it really only seems to benefit the major artists who you could argue don’t need the cash.
Level 5 – Artist creates a cinematic track for a spot. As someone who started his career in music and brand this is where it all begins for me. There are times when a sync is not an option and a brand needs to express itself in a very individual way. Mr François’ adventure into sonic branding is best demonstrated by a Lancia spot promoting their sponsorship of the Summit for Nobel Peace Laureates, the music was composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone.
So are these five levels the model for how to use music in advertising? Well they offer a pretty good base on which to build and when you have a marketing budget as big as Mr François’ there is the ability to approach the music industry from a position of power without the need to flash the cash. Most brands will not have this muscle to flex but that does not mean they should not use these levels to find their own solution.
Before we head into day two it is worth revisiting one of Olivier François’ best music based campaigns, the award winning Eminem/Chrysler ad. Eminem is not known for his love of brand partnerships and this combined with the ad’s narrative provides the kind of authenticity that only comes along once in a while. You could argue that Eminem would never drive a Chrysler 200 but in some ways the car is secondary to the brand here. The real message here is the relationships Eminem and Chrysler have with their home, Detroit.