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Watch the Spots: Gap's Return to TV Features Music Royalty

Ads to Air During NFL Games, Season Premieres

By Published on . 3

After a four-year hiatus, Gap will be back on TV tonight.

The brand has tapped Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison, and Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy Joel, for its "Back to Blue" campaign. Each performs a song made famous by their parents -- "For You Blue" in the case of Mr. Harrison and "Just the Way You Are" in the case of Ms. Joel.

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Seth Farbman, Gap's global CMO, said execs trying to identify talent that was "fundamentally Gap" came up with a long list, but that ultimately there were people that represented "multiple generations of cool." Peterson Milla Hooks handled the campaign.

"For a brand like ours, built on the 'generation gap,' it seemed really rich," Mr. Farbman said. "We've been spending a lot of time really looking at what an iconic brand does and how it acts. … And, as we often do, we were looking backwards, in order to go forwards."

Mr. Farbman said Mr. Harrison and Ms. Joel were excited about the opportunity to perform a song that represented their own feelings but also their relationships with their parents. Though the TV spots feature only short unedited clips of the performances, both Mr. Harrison and Ms. Joel covered the songs in full and sat for interviews, giving Gap a larger trove of quotes, images and video for the campaign. The ability for a campaign to live beyond the TV spots will be a requirement for the brand,as it moves forward and considers more TV, Mr. Farbman added.

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The TV buy -- only the brand's second in seven years -- focuses on event-oriented programming, including NFL games, the American Music Awards and premieres of shows including,"Modern Family," "Saturday Night Live" and new sitcom "The Goldbergs."

Mr. Farbman said the buying strategy complements the brand's efforts on Twitter, where it is breaking the two ads. On Friday, the brand began revealing audio content from the spots and called for consumers to retweet a link from @gap. Once 500 people complied, the musicians' names were revealed. The brand also plans to use promoted tweets pegged to programs it is advertising on. PHD handles TV buying for Gap; AKQA handles digital buys.

"Back to Blue" will resonate with those familiar with classic Gap advertising. The spots are stark, with an emphasis on the people and, secondarily, the clothes. Each is a continuous shot, and it's not until more than halfway through that the viewer learns who the performer is, and then, who the advertiser is. But while they're simple, plenty of thought went into them. Mr. Farbman said his team debated exactly what kind of stool Mr. Harrison would sit on and where Ms. Joel would sit in relation to the piano.

"Our brand has always been about simplicity, taking out the superfluous," Mr. Farbman said. "The hardest thing to do is to make something real. You can create any kind of emotion with the way you do edits. But to allow it to just come from the music and the person is what our brand is all about."

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