Major marketers, along with their respective agencies, have rediscovered that Mr. Copland wrote some very hummable tunes.
"Simple Gifts" from "Appalachian Spring," for which the modern classical composer won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize, serves as background in the Oldsmobile Aurora luxury sedan launch campaign that began last September. "Hoedown" from "Rodeo" provides the tune for the Beef Industry Council's long-running "Beef. It's what's for dinner" campaign. Mr. Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" also has been featured in advertising and on network TV, including on-air teases for the NBC hit "ER."
"These things go in cycles," said Karen Moody, VP of Deutschgrammophon, a division of PolyGram Records in New York. "It's Copland's turn. Or, maybe everyone is using the same ad agency."
A Leo Burnett USA creative team headed by Exec VP-Group Creative Director for Burnett Greg Taubeneck came up with "Simple Gifts," an old Shaker hymn the composer incorporated into "Appalachian Spring," for the Oldsmobile Aurora.
"There is a great feeling of motion to the music," Mr. Taubeneck said. "A car is motion."
Knox Ramsey, general marketing manager for Olds, said Mr. Copland is the music of choice for the next several years for that General Motors Corp. division.
Mr. Taubeneck said Olds is planning to include "Simple Gifts" in a new series of ads for Aurora and the 88 LSS line.
Mr. Taubeneck draws a parallel between the Olds campaign and the ads Burnett did for United Air Lines using George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."
"We tried to give United a musical signature that was identifiable to America," he said. "In `Appalachian Spring' we wanted a real American signature for the car. The whole approach was that Aurora was an American dream and Copland is foremost among composers that sound American."
Monica Eorgoff, director of advertising for the Beef Industry Council, said Burnett suggested Mr. Copland's music for its campaign, begun in 1992.
"We weren't necessarily looking for Copland music," said Ms. Eorgoff. "Burnett suggested `Hoedown' and it seemed to be fabulous music. It has a country, American sound with a classical feel and is catchy. It was just the right music."
Powerful, comfortable and hummable are some of the adjectives creative and marketing directors use to explain why Mr. Copland's music and advertising make such a good mix. They all share the view that his works are classical without being snooty and sound very American.
Jeff Abbott, creative director at Burnett who heads the beef council's creative team, said Mr. Copland's music bridges contemporary and classical.
"It plays well with all generations," he said. "People may not be able to place it, but they know there is something familiar about it."
Messrs. Taubeneck and Abbott say it is simply a coincidence that their agency recommended the same artist for two different clients.
Does Mr. Copland's music work in ads?
Ms. Eorgoff said the beef council ads with Mr. Copland's works drove up the purchase intent by 12% and increased positive attitudes to beef up to 50%.
Mr. Taubeneck said when "Simple Gifts" is used in the upcoming Olds ads the music won't sound like traditional interpretations of the composer's work.
Mr. Taubeneck said much of a brand's personality comes down to intangible things.
"Music is a below-the-radar element in advertising," he said. "You can't quantify it or be logical about how it works. It becomes the personality of a brand."
Using the beef campaign as an example, Mr. Taubeneck said Mr. Copland's "Rodeo" made great sense for beef.
"It is full of energy and is a symphonic version of cowboy music," he said.
One creative director said classical music is now being overused and is at the peak of the curve.
And, if not Mr. Copland, who?
"It's hard to say if there will be more," said Mr. Taubeneck. "There is always an appetite to use music for products if it is relevant."