How Did Our Music Become the Soundtrack for Selling?

Unless you’re one of those people who goes to the bathroom during every commercial, you cannot have missed the fact that the music of our youth has turned into the soundtrack for everything from paper towels to mutual funds. Is baby boomer music cheaper to buy than new music? Do boomers have most of the money so ads that target yardbirdsus are merely tapping into our musical nostalgia? Or is it just the fact that our music has more catchy melodies that lend themselves to 30 and 60 second spots?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I can tell you that I felt royally gobsmacked the first time I heard In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in a commercial for -- are you ready -- Fidelity investment funds. The old Iron Butterfly hit certainly brings back memories, albeit drug-hazed ones, but where is the connection to mutual funds. Did I miss a turn there?

I got it when they used Stevie “Guitar” Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle to pitch the U.S. Post jerryleelewisOffice Express Mail. And Start Me Up by the Stones was pretty clever for the Microsoft Windows release back in 2002. You have to like the Yardbirds doing For Your Love on behalf of Zales Jewelers. When Sylvania wanted to pitch its new headlights they sensibly opted for The Who’s I Can See for Miles. I even found it amusing when Appelbee’s had Jerry Lee Lewis singing Great Balls of Fire. Speaking of fire, there was a rumor making the rounds that a hemorrhoid treatment wanted to use Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire to promote their brand (but maybe they lost their nerve?).

The ad world has a knack for pairing chambersbrotherssome odd bed fellows if you look at their track record. Marvin Gaye (of Sexual Healing fame) seems a somewhat unusual choice for Talbot’s, but there he is singing You’re A Wonderful One. Likewise, The Band singing The Weight feels a little forced when used to hype Cingular. I do like an old favorite of mine, Time Has Come Today by the Chambers Brothers when it’s used to sell Haggar pants. It’s almost karmic that the Lovin Spoonful sings Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind for Diet Pepsi.

But that only makes the Iron Butterfly connection to mutual funds more mysterious.

In-a-gadda-da-vida honey,
don'tcha know that I love you?
In-a-gadda-da-vida baby,
don'tcha know that I'll always be true?
Oh won'tcha come with me, and take my hand?
Oh won'tcha come with me, and walk this land?

Walk this land and invest your money? Maybe there’s just something weird about mutual fund advertising. Ameriprise Financial used Gimme Some Lovin by the Spencer David Group and KC and the Sunshine Band does Shake Your Booty for Fidelity Investments.

If I am seeing this pattern correctly, the next band to be tapped for financial ads may be the Kinks.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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