When wrong feels right

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Ask any music supervisor, and she'll tell you that she loves to be involved in any project from the very beginning, and it's even more rewarding if the music is a key element of the spot's concept. That's why, despite a packed schedule, Agoraphone partner Beth Urdang waited and insisted on being involved while HP's celebration of iPod technology, "Mash Up," was delayed for several months. "I love the idea of working on something that was totally conceptual musically," she says. "The idea itself was pure."

The result of Agoraphone's work with Goodby Silverstein and Partners is a spot that creates a world where music is universal, interchangeable and danceable, no matter the genre. According to copywriter John Knecht, the idea came while watching a mosh pit in a music video and envisioning a different track behind the dancing. It opens on iPod screen-style titles that read "You let musical worlds collide." Then, we see country line dancers kicking to a Black Eyed Peas track, a mosh pit slamming to the Bobbettes' "Mr. Lee," polka folks spinning and bouncing to the dance beats of DJ Assault, a full hip hop club grinding to Jimmy Sturr's "I Love to Polka" and break dancers moving to the bluegrass tune "Orange Blossom Special." An end title sequence introduces the new generation of iPod, where "you have all your music in one place." It's a spot that celebrates music by essentially choosing the wrong track to fit the picture, and one that revealed a lot about the song selection process to the people picking the tracks.

"It wasn't about being opposite, it was about being delightful," says Urdang of the spot's original purpose. It was supposed to be humorous and interesting, to make these delightful contradictions stand out. One of the things that was so interesting about it, especially after it was shot, was that the things that you thought would work didn't, and that things work for the most interesting reasons." The most surprising revelation came early on, when Urdang and her collaborators realized that some tracks were too germane. "We would put up a really popular song, and then realize that it is such a popular song that anyone can dance to it. It was a more honest approach where we would look for what worked, not go on a cool hunt." After a few misses, the team-which also included Knecht, art director Sean Farrell, producer Lisa Gatto and director Paul Hunter- realized that the songs needed to be iconic of the genre, but not the most widely known. For example, "Orange Blossom Special," while known as a classic in bluegrass circles, is not instantly recognizable to the average viewer, who hears an iconic bluegrass tune. The second bit of criteria in choosing tracks was to match the picture and be sure that it looked like the dancers were really dancing to the new music, though they were actually filmed moving to the "right" one. "It had to be the balance of believability and disconnect," says Urdang. The final step was clearing the rights to an atypically long list of songs for the 60-second spot, which Urdang did along with her partner Dawn Sutter Madell and two assistants.

"What's revolutionary about this HP spot is that they really did take a step away from how music is being used in ads," says Urdang, who said that many creatives simply ask for the newest or most popular song. "The agency totally did a smart concept that was musically based without using a song just to make it cool. I hope that people will do more of that."

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