It’s Yoko’s Fault – Again!

May 2, 2017

I feel a bit sick. I’m doing some homework and have the TV to watch the news and I have just endured the equivalent of a drive-by shooting of my musical youth.

I saw two ads in succession, one for Bulla Dairy foods and one for Target, that both use INXS songs in their campaigns. The Bulla one was an acoustic cover of “Don’t Change” and the Target one had “New Sensation” – the original version.

It’s made me a bit *sangry (*sad and angry). I saw INXS a number of times when I was younger, including the 1994 concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre when Australia’s then premier Rock God Michael Hutchence had a broken leg and still gave the most electrifying performance.

And now he’s flogging yoghurt and kids flannelette pyjamas from Beyond The Grave. It’s depressing. I can’t see Michael going for it myself. He was too cool for that. Last December he was inducted into the Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Sigh.

One of the strongest relationships I’ve had – and continue to have – is with music. I love it. I grew up listening to my Mum playing the piano and Dad played the violin when he was young so I was exposed very early on to their somewhat eclectic choices in music. Nana Mouskouri and Demis Roussos were big in the Bernard household. I still know all the words to The White Rose of Athens. (SIDEBAR: Did you know that Demis only passed away in 2015? I can never see someone wearing one of those Camilla kaftans without thinking of him). The Seekers were on high rotation and Mum also had a thing for a Romanian folk artist called Georgy Zamfir, the undisputed King of the panpipe. I’m not making it up – she really liked it. Absolutely no idea why.

But back to these ads. I understand the power of music to sell a product and when it’s done well it’s really powerful.

A great example of an ad where the music makes it great was the Qantas campaign featuring that beautiful love letter from musical genius Peter Allen to his homeland. It wasn’t cheesy, it hit just the right note (pardon the pun) and I still get goose bumps whenever I hear “I Still Call Australia Home.”

Another really good use of music in an ad was Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” to launch the Apple iPod in 2003. It rocketed them to international stardom, with their Get Born album going on to sell 3.5 million albums. In fact, a number of relatively unknown artists were used to promote Apple products, catapulting them into the limelight, which became known as the ‘Apple Effect’.

You know we only started using the original songs by their artists in the late 1980’s? Before that it was largely muzak versions of songs. Probably the most famous case of this was in 1987 when Nike used the Beatles song “Revolution”. When the ad dropped, the Beatles’ record label sued Nike on the basis they didn’t get permission from the band.

The late great George Harrison did his block and said it would open the door for the band’s songs to be used to advertise everything from “women’s underwear” (OR kids flannelette pyjamas) to “sausages” (OR dairy products). It turns out that Yoko Ono, who was a shareholder in the Beatles’ record company, had helped broker the original deal. Apparently her thinking was it would introduce a new generation to John’s music. Nike stopped running the ads early in 1988 and the case settled out-of- court for about 3 million bucks.

George was on to something. He knew we couldn’t un-ring that bell. And now we have a gorilla playing the drum solo on “In the Air Tonight” for Cadburys chocolate. The Defense Rests Your Honour.

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