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Can You Hum A Few Brands?

How advertisers go different ways to add melody to their messages.

There was a time when music for commercials came as a commercial property --securing rights and use from the original artists. Those artists who fought for artistic integrity and the avoidance of crass commercialism made sure that their music, lyrics and renditions were not available at any price.

So advertisers went a couple of different ways to add song to their messages.

One way was negotiation with the artist and organizations like ASCAP who could determine if rights to the composition would be available. I remember vividly studying advertising with a good friend in college who worked part time for ASCAP and when we created a Nabisco snacks campaign for a National student advertising competition sponsored by the American Advertising Federation, she was our conduit to insure the judges that the song we selected was up for grabs.

A classic ad example was for Nike who used the original recording of the Beatles’ “Revolution” in their ad for running shoes as negotiated with Capital-E.M.I. Records and S.B.K. (who represented Michael Jackson’s ownership of the publishing rights at the time).  According to the reports, since “recordings carry two copyrights, for publishing (the words and music of a song) and for performance, as embodied in the recording” Apple Corps Ltd and Apple Records sued Nike since the Beatles received no payments at the time.

Part of the tangle of lawsuits had to do with the Beatles and their record companies too, but Nike was reported to stop airing ads with the song approximately within a year of the original airing.

Companies can, of course, purchase stock music and own the rights/use of this sound in their commercials. But in what appears to be the more of the trend is when ad agencies commission new musicians to create new songs for products. 

This is clearly a win-win: brand identity and branded entertainment for the advertiser and quicker (if not instant) notoriety for the artist. Companies like Kraft, Chrysler, Pepsi-Cola, and Wm.Wrigley Jr. have taken this musical ride over the last few years with varied results.  

Closer to home, from a consumer perspective, there’s a note by my computer that reads “song from Weber Grill commercial” on the list of songs my teenager wants to buy from iTunes.

She’s not a consumer for barbecue grills right now – but she’s likely to mention the name when we go to buy our next one for the household. That's exactly what the advertiser hopes.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Laura June 22, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I honestly think that advertisers and agencies have gotten lazy, falling back on licensed songs. (I say that as a person who does that very thing for a living, for one of the brands you mention.) Gimme a good jingle - the ones from the sixties and seventies are still in my head.
Lauren B. Lev June 23, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Laura, you clearly know this area of the business, but it is my impression that the changing circumstances may explain how advertisers are in a different situation when it comes to securing music: hanging requirements for protecting and licensing music post-MP3 players and iTunes, as well as the way musicians get their work to be heard today vs. in the sixties. It's tough enough to be an musical artist, it's got to be just as conflicting to develop music for marketing purposes.


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