CLOSE-UP: Live Issue/Music in Advertising - Advertisers make a song and dance about music. Getting the right track can be of benefit to artist and client, Jeremy White says

JXL's thumping remix of Elvis Presley's A little less conversation, used in a current Nike ad, has just handed The King his 18th number one single - edging him in front of The Beatles in the record books.

There's no doubting the role the football ad had to play in the success of the single. However, as anyone who remembers Nick Kamen's inability to keep his strides on will tell you, the music and advertising love story is nothing new.

The Levi's "laundrette ad using Marvin Gaye's classic I heard it through the grapevine was 18 years ago. Sales rocketed and Levi's has blazed a trail ever since, mixing R&B classics with Handel and unknown bands such as the Finnish group Pepe Deluxe.

In fact, the Pepe Deluxe story is a classic example of an ad launching a band's career. When first released in Finland, the band's single shifted only 60 copies. After it was used in Levi's "twisted commercial, it went top-20 across Europe and propelled the band to stardom overnight.

Put simply, ads make bands very famous. There's no way that a record company can buy the same exposure that the hefty media spend of Nike and Adidas provides.

The record companies are cottoning on to the fact too. Last week Warner Music UK launched its first-ever dedicated consultancy service for agencies.

Warner is the last major label to do this as Universal, BMG, Sony, EMI and Chrysalis all have similar divisions.

Jane Davies, the head of film, TV and advertising at Warner Music UK, comments: "My appointment to try and place music in ads, film, TV and computer games reflects the growing realisation by record companies of just how important and influential music in media, and advertising, can be. That is not to say that by placing music in a commercial that it guarantees a hit and greater exposure. It's an added bonus and should not be taken as a mainstream marketing opportunity. When it works, it works really well though."

Davies says that there are a number of factors that can affect an ad's influence on the artist's success.

Was the music a central feature of the ad or was it merely an underscore to the visuals? Is there a voiceover or is the music the principal soundtrack?

Is the product a lifestyle brand that people will want to buy into or is it for a loo-cleaning product?

Rachel Iyer, the head of film and TV at Sony Publishing, says: "Sony realises how important this is, how much help it can be to your catalogue. Record sales are down and so companies are looking at other areas to promote their catalogue. We've just done the Hendrix ad with Audi and we wanted to show that it is possible to get these bigger acts cleared and they are up for it."

Not only are record companies taking notice but music research companies, such as Soundtree Music that has worked on Guinness and Adidas ads, are springing up and specialising in helping agencies find music for ads.

The trouble is, advertising agencies are getting disgruntled that they are still charged by record companies for providing them with this extra exposure.

Andy Gulliman, a senior TV producer at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, says: "The idea of having to pay a licence fee is old hat. With ads having a much wider audience, the attention and airplay that music gets is immense. Record companies should be waking up to this fact rather than wondering how much they can get for their synch (synchronisation) fee."

"This is a really contentious issue, Davies concedes. "But if you start licensing music for free, then you are setting a precedent and it becomes difficult. Advertising agencies will want free music the whole time. Yes, the commercial gives a wider marketing potential to a track but it also gives something to the ad. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Music is a talent and resource that should not be undersold."

Despite this bone of contention, agencies and record companies are keen to pool talents to produce a winning result for all. At the moment, with the current exception of The King, their focus seems to be on using unknown acts instead of established greats.

"Personally, I like the idea of using that opportunity to try and promote new bands to wider audiences, Gulliman says. "This is more logical than getting a Moby track and paying a fortune to associate your brand with Moby."

Moby's triple platinum album Play has had its music licensed an amazing 600 times for ads, TV and film - netting the artist an estimated £10 million. As a result, the artist has come up against criticism for selling-out.

"When you just need a good bit of music to accompany great visuals, then you search and you search and it's lazy to go for the obvious, Gulliman says. "You have to find something that is stimulating."

But don't try to be too clever - recently Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds blocked an agency trying to use their track Right red hand when they discovered it was to be used in a tampon commercial.

Artist            Track                 Advertiser        Chart     Year
Stiltskin         Inside                Levi's                1     1994
Babylon Zoo       Spaceman              Levi's                1     1996
Bran Van 3000     Drinking in LA        Rolling Rock          2     1999
The Wiseguys      Oh lah lah            Budweiser             2     1999
Moby              Porcelain             Volkswagen            5     2000
Dandy Warhols     Bohemian like you     Vodafone              5     2001
Pepe Deluxe       Before you leave      Levi's               20     2001
Stereophonics     Have a nice day       The Times             5     2001
Elvis Presley     A little less         Nike                  1     2002

Bands include: REM, David Gray
Contact: Jane Davies, head of film, TV and advertising

Bands include: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles
Contact: Rachel Iyer, head of film and TV

Bands include: Elvis Presley
Contact: Adam Bradley, marketing manager

Bands include: The Police
Contact: Steve Hills, creative licensing manager of film and TV media

Bands include: Leftfield, Morcheeba
Contact: Tracie London-Rowell, director of film, TV and advertising

Bands include: Stereophonics
Contact: Barbara Zamoyska, head of film and TV

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