"Just sold my song, to we buy any song"
Why come up with a jingle when existing popular music tracks might do the job better for you? It's little wonder that cover versions are enjoying a revival
30 October 2023
Finding a follow up to the divisive figures of James Corden and Philip Schofield was always going to be a difficult task for the downmarket car exchange service WeBuyAnyCar. After all, part of their memorability was that the pair were in their time both ubiquitous and polarising.
But instead of choosing another 'larger than life' TV celebrity, the brand opted to adapt the lyrics to 'Friday' by Riton and Nightcrawlers featuring Mufasa & Hypeman, with internet personality Mustafa appearing in the ads. The result? An incredible earworm for a brand that exists in the depths of a low-interest category.
The use of jingles as fluent devices is long established. But why go to the bother of creating your own when you can adopt or adapt those that have already entered culture and wormed their way into the nation's ear (and which will also prove a nice little earner for the artists themselves)? We asked some practitioners to explain their popularity and name their favourite songs that have been covered and made into ads.
David Wigglesworth, ECD, Grey London
One of my biggest complaints with the advertising industry is the disgusting lack of punk, metal & hardcore when it comes to music choices. It feels like just about every genre under the sun gets its time in the sun, but for my beloved. Slipping a heavy track on an edit gets the equivalent reaction to punching a stranger’s baby in the face at the park - trust me, I’ve tried (I’ll let you decide which part of the analogy I’m referring to.)
But, for a moment. Be me, feel my childlike joy when I hear “Bleed” by Meshuggah tearing out the speakers over the words “ADVERT” and a can of Punk IPA slapped on top. Top tier!
Another Metal moment that captured my black heart was the legendary Kronenbourg ad “Slow the pace”. Getting Lemmy of Motörhead to perform a chill AF acoustic remake of “Ace of Spades” landing the idea that 1664 is a taste to be savoured was inspired. The film had raditude. The track is legendary. And the ad stands the test of time. Timing the endline to appear to the beat of a tapping foot is craft levels 666. Gnarkill.
Regan Warner, ECD, McCann London
Have you ever wondered why you remember some adverts so well? That, my friends, is science; we process music with same parts of our brain as we use for memory and emotion. So, when we hear a certain song or note it can make us remember and feel a certain way.
Sometimes the original song takes on a whole new meaning like the iconic House of Pain’s track ‘Jump Around’, which rocked my high school days and became a new anthem 30 years (gulp!) later selling Christmas jumpers for M&S.
Naïka’s ‘Sauce’ is now forever associated in my brain with an endearing wanna-be cook and the durability of an iPhone 12.
Adapting lyrics just a bit will get all the associations from those learned melodies, plus sticky memories direct from your consumer. That's gold for brands, making their message firmly planted in the audience’s head.
We were all jumping outside our car door and doing a ‘Friday Dance’ thanks to Mufasa on social. And now we can relive that trend with the reimagining of ‘Friday’ by Riton and Nightcrawlers for the ‘Just Sold My Car’ campaign. But the brand didn’t stop there, they went one step further by taking the man himself behind the viral trend ‘Friday dance’, Mufasa (a.k.a. Jeff Obeng) and used him in the advert. So social became the tvc rather than the tvc being cut down for social. Very meta and memorable.
Sky Sports campaign for Women’s Super League reworked Stormzy’s ‘Shut Up’ with Nadia Rose into a rallying cry for us to ‘Keep Up’. Bringing the worlds of grime and women’s football together creating a new voice. One we can’t help but pay attention to.
We live in an always audio-on world (via TikTok) and music has more power than ever to create memorable connections between consumers and brands. Let’s use this power for good as we are all still trying to forget, Ol' Dirty Bastard lyrics changed to "Baby, I got your laundry" for LG wash towers.
Will McCartney, strategist, Wunderman Thompson
Across the last decade, more and more brands have used cover versions of popular songs in their TV spots. Some of the most memorable ads in recent years have deployed this tactic; what is the link, then, between fresh takes on classic tracks and the propensity for success?
The power of a catchy song to supercharge a campaign’s memorability is sewn into the dogma of the industry. When a brand opts for a new version of something well known, it relies on the audience’s existing knowledge. Resultantly, there is likely already a strong emotional connection present in the viewership; they will have already established a relationship with it.
Take Chipotle’s 2011 magnum opus, “Back To The Start”. The work, which won the Grand Clio in Film at the 2012 Clio Awards, critiqued factory farming, following a farmer going back to his organic roots. Chipotle employed Willie Nelson to perform a cover of Coldplay’s “Scientist”, a track that occupies emotionally charged real estate in the millions of consumers’ hearts.
In this instance, using the original iteration may have foregone resonance, as it would feel tropey or expected. Viewers who hear a newer take on the tune, however, are forced to revisit their original relationship with the music under a new lens, allowing for a fresher, more relevant emotional connection.
Cover versions also allow for a dose of originality – brands that contribute something new to the creative ecosystem will prove distinctive, as reappraising the meaning, mood or message of a well-known song becomes something that can be singularly attributed to the brand in question.