Letters, Jan. 12, 2009

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Pop tunes don't make good ad songs

Re: "Ad Songs of the Year" (Ad Age's "Book of Tens," Dec. 15, 2008). What should have been a celebration of the year's most creative, innovative and effective uses of music in advertising instead resembled a playlist from (insert your favorite Brooklyn-based-hipster music blog here). While the list mentioned a few quality tunes, Ad Age failed to include even a single example of a true "ad song."

An "ad song" is a piece of music created specifically for a commercial. It is a song that is exclusively tied to a brand and would not exist were it not for the ad in which it was originally used.

This list from Ad Age is not one of "ad songs"; rather, it is merely a list of pop songs. Yes, the tracks appeared in commercials, but these songs have identities all their own. They belong to artists and fans, not to the brands that paid hefty licensing fees for the right to bury them under voiceover and slap their logos on at the end.

Advertising is supposed to deliver a clear and consistent message to consumers. Advertisers understand this idea as it pertains to elements such as logos, word marks and slogans, but they often neglect to apply the same principle when dealing with music. Unlike branded visual imagery, rented music negates any chance to create an exclusive link between song and brand. The result is that consumers, when shown a Swoosh, will think of Nike, and when played a Kinks song, will think of the Kinks ... not Converse.

As advertisers, we are not here to make movies, break indie bands or hobnob with celebrities. Our primary purpose is to help our clients build a branded identity and sell their stuff.

So what should be on the list of the best ad songs of 2008? I would suggest Walmart/Coke's "Extended Family"; EA's "Oh No You Didn't"; Audi's "Living Room" track; or Zales' "Don't Forget Love." I'd even nominate Subway's "$5 Footlong" jingle and any of the FreeCreditReport.com tunes. They aren't very sexy, but they deliver a clear, branded message and they have actually helped sell sandwiches and credit reports.

As for the future of the Ad Age top 10 list, to avoid any confusion next year I would suggest it be given a more appropriate title, such as, "Top 10 Songs on My iPod That Happen to Be in Commercials," or "Top 10 Licensed Tracks You Are Sure To Hear in Different Ads in Six Months."

Paul Horn
The Apollo Project
Los Angeles

In defense of Bogusky's diet book

RE: "People Plugs Bogusky's Diet Book, Ignores His Day Job" (Adage.com, Jan. 6). I say kudos to Mr. Bogusky. While it may seem he is a true hypocrite for writing a diet book and at the same time promoting two fast-food chains, at the end of the day, he is a marketer. It just shows, to his credit, that he really is a remarkable marketer. Being able to pull off a two-page editorial in a highly circulated magazine without any type of nutritional credentials, while shocking, says much about Americans' interests and that Bogusky, as any good marketer should, has noticed and taken action.

Laura Barajas
Irvine, Calif.

I published the book, and when I first met Alex for "Hoopla" book, he mentioned this book idea. He thought it was an interesting cultural phenomena, and he did say he tried it and indeed lost weight.

You'll notice in a similar two-page spread that ran in the New York Post's Jan. 4 issue of its Page Six magazine, he states "not eating out" every night is an important point, and when you do, "order from the kids' menu" (fast-food restaurants have those). He further states that "if your food is larger than your hand," it's too much. So next time you are in Burger King or McDonald's, order what we used to call a cheeseburger (I'm 46), what's now most likely called a kid's burger.

Lastly, CP&B, no one has noted so far, also does (or did) The Truth campaign to dissuade kids from smoking. It, like other agencies, engage in good-works projects; it is also good business. I think this book is a culturally interesting one that can actually do good. To condemn ad people to stick to their cubicles is the same type of restrictive, regimented, compartmentalized and unproductive thinking that typified, until recently, our social engagement with one another, our politics, our approach to the planet. Much like passing judgment on something without reading it (and saying so publicly!), that's a paradigm of behavior that's passé.

Daniel Power
Powerhouse Books
Brooklyn, N.Y


RE: "People & Players" (AA, Dec. 8). Google VP-Advertising Sales Penry Price was incorrectly identified as being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Achievement.

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