Nothing is more irritating than getting a commercial jingle stuck in your head. But how about when what’s stuck is one of those breakthrough ad spots featuring a song you can’t stop listening to? You know, the ones whose music is so great that it actually makes the product pitch fade into the background. Following are eight such gems.
Volkswagen: “Pink Moon,” by Nick Drake
So beautifully done, it feels like a subtle product placement nestled in a really great movie scene. That night drive along that gorgeous stretch of back road, set to this Nick Drake classic, is the kind of excursion most people can only hope to experience. Who knew we’d have Volkswagen to thank for it, though?
Coca-Cola: “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”
This represents a rare instance in which an ad actually triggered a hit song. This ode to racial harmony draped in a soft-drink commercial was so in demand that Coca-Cola allowed the band it hired to sing the song, the New Seekers, a chance to record it as an official single. Soon, a top-ten hit—and a dream come true for the band—were born.
Gap: “Back in Black,” by AC/DC
No one rocked a pair of skinny black pants like Audrey Hepburn, and Gap knew it. Couple that with some amazing editing work and the rights to use this AC/DC song, and you have the kind of advertisement in which all the elements just meld perfectly. Credit Gap for making it hard to select just one of its amazing spots among the numerous and equally dazzling campaigns it’s conceived over the years.
Kia: “The Choice Is Yours,” by Black Sheep
Those hamsters are hardcore, yo! Rocking throwback hip-hop attire while jamming down the streets to this Black Sheep hit, they do a good job of highlighting the difference between that Kia Soul and, well, toasters, cardboard boxes, and a washing machine. Given the choices, it’s hard not to appreciate the four-door vehicle. It’s also a great example of novelty spokes-animals not getting in the way of the product they’re selling.
Geico: “Remind Me,” by Röyksopp
Not even the ridiculousness of one of Geico’s cavemen spokesmen can take away from the melodic techno-pop draw of this song; the tune is so catchy, you actually feel bad for the Neanderthal being mocked by the tagline: “So easy, even a caveman could do it.” And Geico manages to pull all this off in just about thirty seconds—a rare feat in this era of lengthy ad spots.
Nike: “Revolution,” by the Beatles
It’s hard to go wrong with the Beatles, though legally, Nike did—turns out, one of the company’s greatest TV spots was plagued by a lawsuit from Apple Records, the Beatles’ recording company, which wasn’t too pleased by Nike’s use of the song. But none of that detracts from the quality of the commercial itself. This one continues to inspire through those amazing lyrics and athletes from all walks of life trying their best.
Mitsubishi: “Breathe,” by Telepopmusik
Apparently, advertisers have caught on to the fact that there’s something about a nighttime spin in a sweet ride while a cool song plays that really grabs people. The Mitsubishi brand wasn’t nearly as enticing as the music in the 2003 Outlander commercial featuring this song … or was it? Try listening to that tune again without triggering a mental image of that car ride. Turns out, it’s actually a genius spot.
Apple: “1234,” by Feist
The iPod was already popular when this commercial hit, but Feist wasn’t. Her catchy little refrain catapulted the Canadian singer from indie artist to full-blown chart-topper. As the story goes, Feist’s third album was selling around six thousand copies per week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But after this Apple ad premiered, “1234” skyrocketed in popularity, garnering seventy-three thousand downloads and reaching number seven on Hot Digital Songs and number twenty-eight on the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, it even created more buzz around the iPod Nano, making the collaboration successful all around.
Snatching catchy jams from musical artists for the sake of selling more products seems like a no-brainer, yet not every effort is successful. For every genius Nike spot, there’s a crappy fast-food chain churning out lackluster advertisements featuring some ’80s song you love too much to see it condemned in such a fashion. So when a commercial-and-song pairing hits on all cylinders, it’s all the more satisfying.