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.
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.
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.
It is officially Autumn and what better way to fill the long evenings than with Billboard’s 2014 Music and Brand Roundtable. This year we have some serious people from the various corners of music and brand, and Lars Ulrich. Its not exactly chock full of drama or laughs, at times its feels like a negotiation, but as a resource on music and brand its worth your time.
I’m not sure choosing one of the biggest music stars in the world provides much insight. Mr Ulrich points out that brands come to him so his view of the music and brand relationship is fairly traditional. I think it would have been more interesting had they got a new artist with more of a need for brand relationships as they look to build a career. But then I guess if someone offers you Lars Ulrich you don’t turn them down.
The person you have to listen to is Steve Pamon of Chase. He explains so many of the issues that brands have when trying to work with music artists. His basic issue is the music business’ failure to act like a business. He does throw music a bone by pointing out its emotional impact on an audience and how valuable this is to a brand.
Listen also to Jennifer Frommer from SFX as she quickly points out the value of content. Rather than simply talking about putting a brand next to an artist she explains the importance of providing platforms and a variety of content that an audience will want.
There is no point in me describing the whole chat, I simply recommend that rather than watching X Factor you check out the films. The mix of people is good and the conversation, while not ground-breaking, is certainly worth some of your time.
My favourite quote is:
Lars Ulrich – “I think U2 are the coolest”.
Always leave them laughing.
I normally don’t like to comment on big music and brand stories as there is little point adding to the din around them. However, I really feel I need to chip in on the U2/APPLE incident.
Depending on who you read, either the biggest thing ever in music happened last week or there was an album launch which nobody was really bothered about. Some say U2 got paid $100m, others suggest that the media campaign was worth $100m, others worried about whether the light stays on when you close the fridge.
In the interest of honest journalism I would like to declare my interests, I own an iPad and a MacBook but I have never owned an iPhone, although I am a little tempted by the 6 as long as it has a battery that can help me chronicle the entire life of a mayfly. I also own a lot of U2 albums, all of them up to 2004, not entirely sure why.
What does the U2/Apple thing really mean? Well Music Ally did some analysis of the data and concluded that actually people weren’t that excited about a new U2 album even when it is free. They also hit the nail on the head by spotting that actually the real money for U2 from this amazing moment of philanthropy is that the back catalogue is doing great business on iTunes.
For me the whole thing demonstrates the power of having mates in high places. The Apple love affair with U2 dates back to the days of Steve Jobs at a time when U2 really were a big band. Nowadays things have changed, kids and teens have no idea who Bono is and U2 are about as relevant to their lives as a finance package on family car. So why have Apple seen fit to bring the band in for their biggest launch of the year? Will it help their business reach untapped audiences and convince the world that the iPhone is cool? Nah. This is about Bono being mates with Sir Jonathan Ive and Jimmy Iovine. It is about Tim Cook’s desire to try and grab a little of that Steve Jobs magic by hanging out with rock stars. This is about being connected.
I think this experiment in music and brand partnerships will succeed for Apple in the way it seems to be for U2. Apple couldn’t give a crap if some teenager knows what The Joshua Tree is because how many 16 year olds can afford a £600 phone anyway. What they seem to be gunning for is the 40 somethings who can. Despite the words of Guy Oseary in a recent Billboard interview I’m not convinced that the upswing in U2 sales is being driven by teenagers. You see they have this thing called Spotify which is really rather good and makes iTunes look a little pants (youth terminology from a while back). This partnership is about middle aged (I’m being generous) men sitting around and asking themselves what band they want attached to their mobile brand, not a skateboard or an app in sight.
Do I think what Apple and U2 have done is smart? No. Do I think this is the future of the music industry? No. Will it make more people buy iPhones? No. Will it help bring U2 to the kids? No. What it will do is get U2 in the news for a week, get some people to listen to an album that they would never have paid £10 for and save Apple a few quid on sync fees for their commercials.
I almost forgot to mention the album. Its a little boring but U2 fans will love it. If you want to remove it from your life here are the instructions.
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“.