I was multi-screening in front of the magic fish tank recently and heard Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger”. I looked up to see that it was wrapped around the ad for the latest Golf Mk 7.5. As Iggy belted out “I am a passenger and I ride and I ride” to celebrate the fancy new semi-autonomous capabilities of Wolfsburg’s finest, all I could think of was the 1998 Toyota Avensis launch ad which also featured the very same tune.
This got me thinking:
1.Didn’t someone in the Volkswagen production team do a check on where the track had been used before?
2.Did they but then thought, “Sod it, we like the track, so does the client, so let’s just crack on”?
3.How many times does this happen?
4.Where have all the good automotive ad tracks gone?
I’m going to limit myself to numbers 3 and 4 because I’m no longer privy to what goes on with Volkswagen Golf ads.
In terms of recycling of tracks, it does happen. ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” has been used a couple of times (Volkswagen Beetle in the US (2002) and BMW 6 Series in the UK/Europe (2011)). Not so bad – different decades and different continents. Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” has been used by both Jaguar (X-Type) and Alfa Romeo (Giulietta). Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” has racked up a pair of outings for the Citroen C5 and Toyota Tacoma. Surprisingly, given the formula we can see developing here, Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” has only had a couple of airings, for the Ford Cougar and perhaps more appropriately for Mercedes with their 2017 Super Bowl spot for the AMG GT Roadster. But in first place we have BodyRockers with “I Like The Way”, which has seen the most action – for BMW, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.
However, if you look at the artist that has been used most promiscuously, you’d have to go a long way to beat Jimi Hendrix, who has seen action for Toyota (“Voodoo Chile”), Porsche for the 944 Turbo (“Purple Haze”) in the US, the Renault Espace (“All Along The Watchtower”), Audi for the TT (“Under The Influence”) and most recently for Ford in 2015 for the launch of the new Mustang (“If 6 was 9”). Clearly, if nothing else, it helps oil negotiations if the artist has shuffled off their mortal coil and they’re not sat there fouling things up with their awkward principles and squeamishness around artistic integrity.
So what about the quality of the tracks being used?As I’ve disappeared down many different rabbit holes checking out the info above, what’s become clear is that different sectors use music more imaginatively (Honda’s “Impossible Dream” and Citroen’s Transformers ads excepted). I’ll probably get hanged, drawn and quartered for saying this, but too often it feels like the soundtrack has been chosen as an afterthought. Great idea? Check. Great location? Yep. Great car porn? Gotcha. VO? Yep, Matthew Macfadyen booked for next Tuesday, we’ve bolted an hour on after his M&S session at Angell. Soundtrack? We’ll come back to you on that once we’ve had a bit of a rummage through the library and seen what the budget looks like after the wrap party… Get my drift?
Given the crossover and duplication above, I think we can all agree there’s room for improvement. Let’s face it, the choice of track for the average car ad in the main all feels a bit “safe”. As a result, there’s an opportunity for advertisers to strap on their brave pants and create a bit of standout from the competition with something slightly less formulaic. Doubt what I’m saying? Then check out my two current favourite ads to see just how well it can be done. Take a bow, The North Face and Kenzo.