When it comes to audio branding there isn’t much that Coke has not excelled at. From its multicultural anthem about buying the world some fizzy pop through its omnipotent open happiness, the vegetable flavoured soda pop has long understood the power of music to sell. So with a new marketing strategy doing the rounds its no surprise that they are dancing to a new tune.
I have no idea what the brief was for this but what they have created feels a little miserable for a brand known for preaching happiness. Rather than worry about whether images of protest communicate joy and togetherness, lets focus on the music. Well my response there is pretty much the same. I’m sure someone will do some nice piece of research that says the new aggressively happy Coke has changed perceptions, reached out to the millennials and made Coke the drink of the bearded wonders but it just doesn’t feel right. Coke is generic and that is not a bad thing, so this attempt to create communications that exclude rather than embrace audiences feels a bit wrong.
I guess you have to admire the bravery but being brave doesn’t make you right.
While we wait for the outcome here’s something that is happy.
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.
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.
Once upon a time there was this really famous singer called Bob Dylan and everyone thought he’d never let a brand use his music or his face for advertising. Then along came a plucky ad exec with a great big cheque and Bob said “Sure”. The End.
In the old days when record labels actually meant something there was this group of hallowed artists who you would never even think of approaching with a sync opportunity. But times have changed and with most of these artists now collecting their pensions the chance to make a few extra pennies through licensing is one they are happy to discuss.
This weekend, in case you didn’t know, is the Super Bowl and with advertisers clambering over each other to blow more cash than each other it looks like the battle of the music and brand partnerships will be between Bruno Mars and Bob Dylan. While Mars has the half-time show and a Hyundai sync, Dylan is serving up a car ad of his own and some yoghurt.
Over the years Dylan has actually done quite a few sync deals but this Sunday’s marketing showcase will be a serious payday. The first ad is a simple sync with Chobani yoghurt using his 1966 track “I Want You“. It is a paint-it-by-numbers sync, ad narrative involves a scary bear wanting a yoghurt, track talks about wanting something, you get the idea.
The other Dylan moment on Sunday may come in the form of an appearance in the latest Chrysler ad, so far there have been lots of “no comments” emerging from the relevant press offices, but Billboard seem to think its happening.
So who will win the battle of the bands? Well I guess at this point I should dish out the cliché of “the world of music will win”. HUT HUT!
P.S. Since we’re talking about Dylan it makes sense to have another look at this little beauty “Like A Rolling Stone”.
If you thought Christmas was good for ads then the next few weeks are monumental. The combination of the SuperBowl and the Winter Olympics means that every sponsor is having to pull out the stops to validate the millions of gold doubloons they spend on getting those corporate tickets, sorry I mean supporting sport.
So to kick off what is going to massive few weeks of ads we have of all things a little film from JC Penney. I’m not the biggest fan of parodies, especially when the original is a great tune but I kind of like the lack of shame in taking on Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”. The lyrics are of course crowbarred in but the chorus is surely going to be sung wherever Ted Ligety goes. It is pretty obvious where the production budget went (hint: it wasn’t on hiring the car park) and that can only be a good thing for the music industry. No Doubt.Those responsible: Music Company: Beacon Street Studios Music Producer: Caitlin Rocklen Musician / Singer: Chauncey Black
Arranger: Mike Franklin/Dewey Thomas
While the whole world goes crazy about John Lewis’ campaign the other UK retailers are quietly putting out their ads. A brand with a pretty good record in the sonic branding world is Boots. In 2007 they invested heavily in a cover of the Ernie K-Doe’s track “Here Come the Girls”, turning a little known track into a Top 40 hit and a valuable piece of their branding. The combination of a perfectly matched chorus and consistent use meant it was pretty hard to hear the track without immediately linking it back to Boots.
Anyway they ditched the track last Christmas, making the switch away from a single track brand approach to campaign focused selections. Since then campaigns have featured tracks from Elton John (Now That’s What I Call Music 56), Fine Young Cannibals (Now That’s What I Call Music 15), Chris Rea (Now That’s What I Call Music 7, South Africa) and Deacon Blue (Now That’s What I Call Music 1988), all of which would resonate well with their audience.
So it comes as no surprise that for Christmas 2013 they have gone for another track that will make people dream of the good old days, Bronski Beat’s classic “Smalltown Boy” (Now That’s What I Call Music 3). In an ad that avoids the subtle story telling of John Lewis, Boots are hoping that a strong soundtrack will grab the viewers attention in a way that the visuals simply don’t.
I don’t think Boots made a mistake by moving on from “Here Come The Girls” it had possibly had its time but for me “Smalltown Boy” just doesn’t feel right for this Boots Christmas Campaign, I have no idea what it says about the brand and it says nothing about Christmas. To me it feels like someone has written a script about a boy who is a bit of a tearaway and lives in a small town, titled it “Small Town Boy” and then had a eureka moment on Spotify. On the upside at least they’ve not done a slow cover of it featuring a female vocal and an orchestra.
A few weeks after the passing of the great Lou Reed it felt right to listen to his classic “Perfect Day” and look again at its most recent appearance in the advertising arena. Sony’s PS4 TV ad featuring the tune ends rather poetically with the camera looking up to the sky; conspiracy theorists must be having a field day with that one.
Anyway you will love the ad more by remembering that Mr Reed refused Susan Boyle the right to sing his song on America’s Got Talent but had no issue with it being used as the soundtrack to a bunch of violent vignettes.