- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

Watching or at least listening to television commercials these days is almost like flipping around the radio dial. More songs, from every era and every kind of artist, are filling up the coveted time slots during commercial breaks.
Popular music artists from Led Zeppelin to Sting are jumping on the commercial bandwagon as their tunes serve as the backdrop for just about everything, including cars, cruises, beer, fast food, computer software and insurance.
The artists have learned that the benefits exposure and money far outweigh an outdated stigma that caught artists "selling out" to the commercial world. And while artists are cashing in, so are the advertisers as songs resonate with consumers and keep their products top of mind.
"Music can set the tone of the message," said Carla Rogers, production manager at the Martin Agency, an advertising agency in Richmond.
Nike pioneered the commercial use of pop music in 1987 when it featured for the first time the Beatles' original recording of "Revolution" in ads peddling its shoes.
Sure, artists had sold their music for advertising in the past. But Nike's use of a song that some say stood for everything noncommercial brought attention to the trend.
The original Beatles sound has not been used in commercials in years, although the words and music have been used repeatedly. Most recently Beatles' tunes have been tapped for H&R; Block ("Tax Man"), AllState ("When I'm 64") and Phillips ("Getting Better").
While almost every industry has used pop songs for commercials, the auto industry has been in the forefront. Familiars include Chevrolet's anthem "Like A Rock" by Bob Seger and Volkswagen's "Mr. Roboto," which was re-recorded by Styx lead singer Dennis DeYoung for the commercial.
But other industries have picked up on the music vibe, using everything from Eric Clapton's "After Midnight" for Michelob to K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way I like it" for Burger King.
The fast-food chain used more than 100 popular songs in its "Food & Music" television and radio campaign in the late 1990s that matched songs like Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" and the Turtles' "Happy Together" with its featured foods.
Now, more than ever, advertisers are turning to pop tunes that click in consumers' minds, using songs or artists that get their attention.
"It's steadily growing," said Neil Gillis, a vice president at Warner Chappell Music in New York. "People see it as a trend because more [artists] want to get involved."
But there's a fine line between using a song for its star power and using a song because it actually fits with the advertiser's message.
"Consumers aren't stupid," said Eric Springer, senior vice president, associate creative director at Deutsch LA, the agency that created the new Mitsubishi ads. "There's a line. Advertisers have to use [music] as a hook."
But how much is too much?
"In order to be a powerful way to communicate, we need to move away from it so it can catch its breath," said Bob Fitzgerald, associate creative director of Arnold Worldwide in Boston. "It's not tapped out, though."

Music variety
The reasons for using recognizable music in a commercial vary as greatly as the campaigns that use them.
Music can be used for entertainment, to target an audience, to offer an emotional or nostalgic connection, or to even offer credibility, said Kevin McKiernan, president of Creative License Inc., a music brokerage firm in New York.
The process of using music whether it is with the original artist or a remake is a little more complicated than going to a store, buying the CD and dubbing it into a commercial. But it's not nearly as difficult as one might think.
In fact, with more artists open to the idea of their music in commercials, it has become easier to cut through the red tape and get the proper approval to move forward with a project.
"Various estates and publishers are more user-friendly now," Mr. McKiernan said.
Two kinds of works are in music licensing: the musical composition, which includes the music notes and the words; and the master recording, which includes the voice of the original artist. The latter is usually much more expensive to buy, so often an agency will use a voice similar to the original artist instead. That means the rights to use the music are negotiated with the owner of the song, who can be anyone including the original artist, the artist's estate or a publishing company. For example, Jim Croce's catalog of songs is controlled by his widow, Ingrid.
The Martin Agency, which uses Mr. McKiernan's firm to broker music deals for some of its creative work, wanted the late Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" in an ad for former client Timberland Co.
"You have to find music that matches the brand," Ms. Rogers said.
The agency decided it would re-record the reggae tune. The cost to use the music: $270,000. The price of the original Marley song would have been more than double that, Ms. Rogers said.
Once Mr. McKiernan was armed with the idea of the Timberland spot, he approached the Bob Marley estate. They liked the idea of the rugged, outdoorsy commercial and a deal was made. To use the music, however, the deal included a re-recording of the tune by an artist who did not sound anything like Bob Marley.
Overall, the process to get permission and have the new voice agreed upon took a couple of weeks. The commercial ran last summer and part of the fall.
Getting permission to use a piece of music whether it is the composition or the original recording can take from two days to months, Mr. McKiernan said.
"It depends on how challenging the campaign is and how sensitive the estate is," he said.
The cost varies as much as the music and commercials do. Industry officials are reluctant to disclose the cost of many deals for fear it would either raise or lower the cost for future deals.
While it is less expensive to re-record music, plenty of advertisers are willing to dish out millions to have the original artists' voice associated with their message from Madonna and Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones and Sting.
Cadillac struck a multimillion-dollar deal with Led Zeppelin to use the legendary band's "Rock and Roll" in its commercials introducing its newest line of vehicles, starting with ads during this year's Super Bowl. The price of the deal, which marked the first time Led Zeppelin has licensed its music, was never disclosed. The carmaker has a year-to-year contract with the band to use the song in its advertising through 2008.
In 1995, Microsoft paid a reported $12 million to $14 million to the Rolling Stones for the use of its song "Start Me Up," which was featured in ads for the company's new software. Sticking with another megastar, the software giant tapped Madonna for a multimillion-dollar deal to use the Material Girl's Grammy award-winning "Ray of Light" to introduce its new XP software.
"We wanted to have someone with some weight and star power," said Walt Connelly, executive creative director at McCann-Erickson San Francisco, which created the ad. "Madonna kind of rose to be that leader. She still remains relevant and cool without being trendy."
Mr. Connelly said the music's lyrics were exactly what they were looking for. The upbeat electric dance song uses phrases like "faster than the speeding light she's flying."
"When you look at Microsoft, it's a technology. We're not just selling [a product] like paper towels," Mr. Connelly said. "This is a product of some stature."

What's in it for the artist?
Attitudes about an artist selling out when he allows his music to be used commercially have changed over the years.
Over time, particularly in the 1960s and during the era of grunge music in the early 1990s, artists who sold their music commercially were looked upon as exploiting their music.
"But it's a different world now," said Art Ford, founder of June St. Entertainment, an independent music marketing firm. "The smarter artists are recognizing what's happening in the marketplace and taking advantage of it."
Getting airtime or becoming part of a radio station's play list is more difficult than ever, especially if the group or artist doesn't fit in a certain category of music the station plays. As a result, artists are getting creative and turning to multiple avenues to reach the public.
"There are young artists who are clamoring to find a commercial entity that will support them," Mr. McKiernan said. "It's also an opportunity to reach a new audience."
Every one of the 18 tracks on techno guru Moby's album "Play" has been licensed for commercial use. The songs have been used in commercials for Nissan, Nordstrom and American Express, as well as in movies like "Any Given Sunday" and "The Beach."
"More and more artists are finding it doesn't really damage them to do this," Mr. Connelly said.
Commercials can even jump-start record sales.
Sting, for example, lent his "Desert Rose" to Jaguar for a commercial for its S-Type sedan in March 2000. The song, which didn't fit in with radio play lists, lingered on Billboard's top 100 list but didn't become a hit until the commercial started airing.
"The commercial becomes a commercial for your catalog," Mr. Ford said.
"Start the Commotion" by the Wiseguys took off after the song was featured in a Mitsubishi commercial for the Eclipse. The song was released in 1999 but didn't hit Billboard's top-40 list until its ad introduction in March 2001.
A newly commissioned recording of "Ooh La La," originally performed by the Faces in 1973, backs up a Mitsubishi Galant commercial. Sales for the song have more than doubled since the ad debuted in April 2001, according to Deutsch LA, which created the ads.
While the list of artists who will not sell their music commercially is getting shorter, there are still those who won't consider commercials like Neil Young, Harry Connick Jr., John Hiatt and James Taylor, according to industry sources.
Singer and songwriter John Hiatt gets a number of requests for his music to be used in commercials, or to write a song for an ad, but he isn't interested, said Ken Levitan, owner of Vector Management in Nashville, Tenn., which manages Mr. Hiatt.
"He is not a big fan of having his music used commercially," Mr. Levitan said. "John writes a lot from the heart, and he doesn't want the songs to be used to sell paper towels.
"When a lot of these artists are performing their songs on stage they don't want someone [in the audience] to have a flashback to a Burger King commercial," said Mr. Levitan, whose firm also manages artists like Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
However, many artists haven't ruled out the commercial side of the business.
"Never say never," Mr. Ford said. "Timing is everything."
The Doors, which had such hits as "Light My Fire," were originally approached and declined to have their song "Break on Through" in the latest Cadillac commercials, Mr. Ford said. However, the legendary rock band's surviving members haven't eliminated the idea of commercial use completely.
Mr. Ford said the band is interested in having its music associated with high-tech companies, and he is in the process of pitching the Doors' music to Intel.

All about the music
Music is the major element in Mitsubishi's current ad campaign, which began running last year.
Songs like "One Week," a chart-topper by the Barenaked Ladies and the not-so-known song "Start the Commotion" by the Wiseguys are among the main elements of the commercials, which usually show a group of young, fun adults in the car bopping to the beat or singing to the tune. In March, Mitsubishi released a new ad for its redesigned 2003 Eclipse featuring a rhythmic dance song by British band Dirty Vegas called "Days Go By."
For the overall campaign, the ad agency wanted to say, "Cool people drive cool cars" without actually saying it, said Mr. Springer, of Deutsch LA. The ad execs took the idea of people singing in their cars which most people do with or without other drivers noticing and built on that.
"This campaign it's unspoken coolness," Mr. Springer said.
That coolness has translated into a more recognizable brand and has appealed to a much younger crowd. In fact, Mitsubishi's brand awareness has jumped 36 percent in the last three years, according to Pierre Gagnon, president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America.
"If the song is appropriate with your product, it does differentiate it and break through," Mr. Gagnon said. "We've hit an emotional chord with customers."
In fact, that's what most advertisers are trying to do by marrying a good song with what they are selling.
Royal Caribbean has done just that with its latest ads using Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life." The cruise line wanted to appeal to different customers, giving them a feel for what kind of adventures the cruise ship can offer.
"We wanted to bring the brand to life," said Mr. Fitzgerald of Arnold Worldwide, the Boston agency that created the ads. "The music is the emotional bed we put the message on."


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