Before I go on my rant, let me just say that TV ads have their place, can be highly lucrative for clients and deliver massive reach.
Good. Now that I've covered that, let me just say that I don't personally like them. And that's ok. Today's technology provides me with loads of different ways to avoid them, so everything's cool. I can start watching the football an hour late so I can fast forward the ads. I can watch rewinds of Will & Grace when the ads come on, or I can just watch Netflix and enjoy my entertainment ad-free. I'm covered, so it's all good.
The only problem with my method is that it isn't foolproof (I figure I'm the fool in this scenario). You see every now and then a TV ad gets through my defences. Most of the time that's ok. It might even be an ad for something I care about or, Heaven-forbid, something I want to buy. It's happened. As I said at the top, TV has its merits. But here's where I draw a great, big, fat line - TV ads that co-opt songs.
You know the ones I mean. The ads that aren't satisfied to just ruin your favourite song by having pretty models sing it whilst driving a car or standing on a beach. They have to take it that step further (into the abyss) and CHANGE THE WORDS. Here's my little bit of advice to anyone considering doing this - STOP AND CHECK YOURSELF YOU FRUIT LOOP.
Let's forget that it offends me as a musician, or that it's a shameless, transparent attempt to co-opt the memories of my youth to get me to buy stuff. The bottom line is that it's just bloody awful.
TV ads are a representation of the company that pays for them. If I think your ad stinks, by extension I think you stink. If I think your ad is manipulative garbage, I think you're manipulative garbage (you see where this is going). And if I think your ad is an unimaginative corruption of a song I hold dear, I'm not going to be happy about it. I won't buy your car, in fact I will consciously not buy your car. That song was mine. I grew up with it, probably sang drunkenly off-key to it at the pub, and used it to pump me up to go running or chill me out when life just sucked a bit. Songs are, to use the cliche, the soundtrack to our collective youth. Don't, don't, don't screw with that.
Ripping off a much-loved song is just a cheap, quick hit of adrenaline for a brand. I don't doubt that the client only hears about marketshare growth, social media engagement or website hits. I doubt anyone is talking to them about the generation of people they just ticked off. It wouldn't be the first time a client only got told the good news (or in fact, nobody was actually polling for the bad news).
I know this might just be me. I might be the crazy outlier and everyone else loves having their favourite songs turned into appallingly worded advertising schtick, but I hope not. I'd find that a bit sad if people weren't insulted when the songs they grew up with were suddenly used to sell dog food.
I guess I'm lucky as many of my favourite songwriters have demonstrated their distaste for this practice on numerous occasions, turning down big bucks in the process (God bless them). And perhaps it's all just a fad that will die a natural death (hopefully very, very soon).
I wrote a blog once and said that "If you've read it, don't write it" was something I heard early in my career and I've always remembered it. I think it applies to most if not all creative arts. I just wish that when 'creative' agencies ran out of ideas, they'd take note of this rule of thumb too and resist the urge to ruin another great song. Surely developing an original song or jingle still has legs? From what I can gather the 'Dumb ways to die' campaign did pretty well. And there's a lot of starving musicians out there people, so why not use that pool of talent to produce something original? You might end up with something your company can hang its hat on for decades, as opposed to a cheap and easy option that likely crashes shortly after takeoff. Oh, and did I mention, ads like this really suck.