Music in Advertising: Brands, Bands Mashup

Advertising campaigns for Kia Soul are fun, colorful, and cool – just like the boxy car they promote. To make that happen, creative agency David&Goliath relied on life-sized hip hamsters who first drove, then rapped, and then shuffled to music from diverse artists to develop memorable video ads.

Computer process maker Intel has found inspiration in music, too. Not that long ago, the $54 billion company (2011 revenue) talked up its speeds, feeds, and technology. Now it’s telling another story: the practical application of computing power in music and other verticals. Intel named Black Eyed Peas artist to the role of director, creative innovation in 2011.

And creative agency TBWA/Chiat worked with vodka brand Absolut to commission Swedish House Mafia to create a new track, “Greyhound,” named after a cocktail recipe (one part Absolut, three parts pink grapefruit juice, and one grapefruit wedge.) The video, directed by Carl Erik Rinsch and released in March, serves two roles: it’s an ad for Absolut and a music video for Swedish House Mafia.

For these collaborative projects to work, they must be mutually beneficial to both the advertiser and artist, said Colin Jeffery, executive creative director, David& Goliath (D&G). “We’re going to see more brands get involved in funding music videos,” he said in an interview after a Creative Week panel discussion. “We’re going to see more and more brand integrations, product placements…it’s very interesting times.”

What’s New Is Old, Sort Of

These campaigns represent an evolution in a long-time relationship between advertisers and musicians. For decades, custom songs or “jingles” were created for radio and TV advertisers à la Alka-Seltzer‘s “Plop plop, fizz fizz…oh what a relief it is” (1979).

Eventually, the use of jingles started to fizzle. Instead advertisers began to license songs from artists. A turning point came when Moby licensed every track on “Play” in 1999. “Suddenly, Play was on TV, it was in movies, it was in advertisements. Since then, it has sold 10 million copies worldwide and is widely thought to have obliterated, once and for all, the wall between popular music and advertising,”’s Josh Sanburn wrote in “Advertising Killed the Radio Star: How Pop Music and TV Ads Became Inseparable.”

Today, brands continue to test approaches to incorporate music into advertisements. What’s more, emerging technologies and services offer new ways for brands to work with bands and connect with their fans, potentially getting those fans to become customers.

One company, OurStage, runs contests, some sponsored by brands, to bring exposure to new artists. In 2011, Intel worked with OurStage to sponsor an original music competition in six categories: rock, pop, country, singer-song writer, urban, and Latin. Using OurStage’s judging platform, fans ranked the submissions.

Another site,, surfaces music and bands that people are talking about on blogs, social networks, and P2P networks. “It’s a music library curated by social activity online,” said Jeffery, characterizing the service as one of his favorites at the moment.

Kia: New Talent for a New Car

D&G has worked with Kia for 13 years. “About six years ago a bunch of great things happened simultaneously. Peter Schreyer [chief design director] arrived and new fresh designs started to role out; Kia built a new state-of-the-art factory in West Point, Georgia. They introduced new high level sponsorship deals, really embraced cutting-edge marketing solutions etc. All of this helped elevate the brand,” Jeffery said in a follow-up email.

In 2009, D&G produced its first hamster video for Kia Soul. The twist: four different versions of the video advertisement were created. All had the same video, but shown with one of four different tracks: Goldfish from South Africa; Potbelleez from Australia; Marz from the United States; and Calvin Harris from Scotland. “This created mass confusion online, which is exactly what we wanted,” Jeffery said. The confusion led to online buzz, including this question popping up on blogs and elsewhere: “What songs were played during the Kia Soul hamster commercial?”

The following year, the Kia ad hamsters were rolling to the song, “The choice is yours,” by the 1990s group, Black Sheep.

And by 2011, David&Goliath worked with Kia to launch a campaign that included the Kia Soul Shuffle Slam competition. The concept behind that campaign was to convey a colorful, positive message in light of the troubled economic times. A friend from Interscope Records encouraged Jeffery and his team to consider LMFAO because of their rock party credentials. Another factor: the electro recording duo has embraced social media. (They have 2.8 million followers on Twitter and 16.8 million “likes” on Facebook.) As of today, the Kia Soul Shuffle Slam video had 17.6 million views on YouTube.

Sure, videos are entertaining, dancing hamsters are cute, and songs are memorable. But do these music-advertising projects pay off for the advertisers? David&Goliath’s Jeffery is convinced they do – as long as the brands and bands complement each other. Four years after Kia launched Soul, it has 70 percent of the boxy car market share, said Jeffery. What’s more, sales in 2011 were up 52 percent over 2010. Those are numbers to party to.

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