On another music related note, songs in commercials make a huge difference on the impact that these advertising spots have on people. It is, however, very difficult, it seems, to find that perfect song, that is, for everybody except Volkswagen. Everyone knows how successful their first major campaign in 20 years was. It featured music by Trio (Da Da Da) and the Styx (Mr. Roboto) and caught on with Volkswagen’s market like wildfire. Subsequent ads created by Arnold Advertising in Boston, featured songs from bands like the Orb, Spiritualized and Fluke, all designed to resonate with people 18 to 34. And they did. Do you remember “What were the skies like when you were little?… Little fluffy clouds.”

Volkswagen wasn’t done -I was stunned by the beauty of the “Pink Moon” spot for the Cabrio featuring 4 young people driving to a party and then realizing that it wasn’t their scene. I have since become a big Nick Drake fan (though I still have not purchased a Cabrio). Volkswagen’s latest spots: “Bubble” featuring the song Mr. Blue Sky by Jeff Lynne (aka ELO or Electric Light Orchestra) and “Squares” featuring a song of the same name by J. Ralph have people stopping what they are doing and watching the screen. They do a great job in cutting through the clutter. A few friends of mine said that that when they first saw the “Bubble” spot they “wanted to see whatever movie that was a trailer for.” I don’t even need to be in the room to recognize the wordless “Squares” spot, it is just *that* different from everything else out there, reinforcing the Volkswagen message without even the need for the visuals.

Yes ads and music go hand in hand and although the days of the jingle are probably not numbered, the catchy little product focused songs will never endear themselves to the young and free at heart like a great song can. In an article on the AEF’s (American Educational Federation) website consumers’ preference for “familiar tunes” in commercials is summed up as follows: “Ad agencies increasingly want to use music that sounds pure and does not sound like advertising. The old American jingle — once a mainstay of advertising — is largely reviled by the public as ”everything that’s wrong, dishonest and insincere” about advertising…” – Chris Wall, an executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

I don’t think songs have to be familiar however to be effective. I had never been exposed to the songs of Nick Drake (Pink Moon), ELO (Mr. Blue Sky), or Nico (These Days – in a recent Kmart ad) until I heard them in ads but now have found them to be great artists, in fact some of my favorites. The music simply has to be good, inspiring in some way. Companies like Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, and the Gap know this and so they use music from artists like Stereolab, Fluke, Nick Drake, The Dandy Warhols, Fat Boy Slim, and The Orb.

Note: most VW commercials mentioned above can be found at vw.com/commercials/.

Here are a couple of cases of art following economics:

  • Volkswagen is distributing its own CD of a much-requested song called ”Jung at Heart,” by Master Cylinder, that it commissioned as an original work for a new Jetta commercial. [Driver Gear VW Store]
  • Ben Neill, was also commissioned to create a series of new 30-45 second musical pieces for new Volkswagen ads and has now increased their length, added a few more songs and put out a new album fittingly called “Automotive.” [Christian Science Monitor]
  • There’s even a CD that has been put out featuring songs from various recent commercials: As Seen on TV: Songs from Commercials
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