So Happy Together?

dylan undiesJust as toxic sludge creeps into the groundwater that communities unwittingly drink, so advertising has crept into the music of our lives. What is it about music and advertising running off into the sunset together that makes me uncomfortable? And why is it that whenever the topic is broached, a fight ensues between vehement opposition and lackadaisical shrugging?

Given that this is a huge topic that needs a decent exploration, I’m going to take my time and explore it in chunks, appropriate, since favorite songs in advertisements often make chunks rise in my throat.

Music and advertising didn’t always go together. There were jingles (my dad can still sing all of them from his childhood) and their were songs, and ne’er the two did mix. As Carrie McLaren wrote in a piece called “Licensed to Sell” in the Village Voice in 1998, it wasn’t until Nike bought the rights to the classic Beatles song “Revolution” (sold by the imitable Michael Jackson) that companies really caught onto the emotional capital exposed by popular music.

With that emotional capital, advertisers could create psychological associations with a product rather than merely get a tune stuck in your head– a song can mean a summer, a person, a turning point in your life, and then, it can suddenly and unapologetically mean Golden Grahams.

Golden Grahams ruined the Turtles song “Happy Together” for me when I was 6 years old. (Even then, I was angry.) Let’s use the transitive property!

Golden Grahams = "Happy Together" AND "Happy Together" = Your Fond Memories
THUS Golden Grahams = Your Fond Memories

Golden Grahams cereal then acquires all the associations you have with that song; maybe your prom, your high school boyfriend, and summertime when it meant something – before your 9-5 job robbed you of summer vacation. But fortunately, Golden Grahams is there to replace these long lost golden moments of young life! (Nom, nom, nom)

In part 2, we’ll look at how different artists react to their songs being used, and who comes out ahead, advertisers or songwriters. Then we’ll move onto the many remarkable ways that advertising has poached and pawned (pwned?) music and how the two work together to conquer young souls and wallets.

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  1. Beth says:

    I’ll never forget when riding in the car when my children were about 7 and 11 years old & I had the radio on the oldies station and “Heard It Through the Grapevine” was playing and my children were astonished that that song was REALLY a song before it was a commercial for “California Raisins”….no one is very creative anymore to write jingles!

  2. Tyler says:

    I cringe when I hear “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. Its such a beautiful song, but the only thing I can think of when I hear it is United Airlines. I sincerely hope the advertising exectutive that thought that up burns in hell.

  3. fred says:

    “When a man loves a pizza”

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