Music & TV Commercials: Teaching the World to Sing

Music and advertising have been going together since the advent of TV. From Burma Shave to the $5 Footlong, jingles and background music have made stickiness and brand association into an art form—literally.

Those who create commercials often get asked by clients to use a particular song as background music, or as their company’s theme song. Those clients are often disappointed to hear that it’s not that easy—permission from both the artist and the songwriter are needed, and that’s usually a very-costly road to travel. It was not uncommon for fees to be thousands of dollars for just one commercial—if permission was granted at all.

(For more information about how to obtain that permission, click here:

Then online music came calling. People stopped buying CD’s and started buying single songs online. (Hey! Know what’s a great way to get someone to hear your new song? Put it in a commercial!) More often than not, music used in commercials became a huge success—and the licensing fees dropped considerably.

Music is a great way to increase retention of your message, and make a positive brand association with a particular artist or genre of music.

Have an old brand? Then find a young band…or something new, alternative, and cool. Need to create excitement for something ordinary like raisins or ketchup or soft drinks? Music to the rescue!

Here are 10 of my All-Time Favorites. The criteria was this:
• It had to be a great song outside of the commercial connection.
• The commercial had to be at least somewhat memorable.
• It made me want to buy the product.
• It had to be a real song, or adaptation of a real song…not a jingle.

(I’ve included links to YouTube)

10. “Falling In Love In A Coffee Shop” (Landon Pigg) for AT&T

This song made a boring brand interesting, and give its products purpose—like helping you fall in love.

9. “1234” (Feist) for iPod Nano

One product. 20 colors. But you can’t look away.

8. “Revolution” (The Beatles) for Nike

What better song title can you think of for the company that not only revolutionized shoes, but sports marketing?

7. “The Power Is On” (The Go! Team) for the NFL’s Play 60

Kids singing is fun. Seeing NFL players bobbing their heads to a song is fun. Although this spot could have done without the obligatory owner cameo, it had staying power.

6. “Pink Moon” (Nick Drake) for VW

Props to VW—they are great at using music to bring their old-school car brand to a brand new audience. This spot made the song…but it’s a great song.

5. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” (Jet) for iPod

Apple is another leader in integrating great songs into their commercials. When you already have a “cool” product, your music is even more on trial.

4. “Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye) for California Raisins

It made raisins fun. So fun, it spawned an entire merchandise industry. (Admit it, you still see them when you hear the song?)

3. “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys) for Sunkist

You can say it’s a bad remake of a good song, and you’d be right. But I grew up thinking these WERE the words to this song. Nuff said.

2. “Anticipation” (Carly Simon) for Heinz Ketchup

They took a great song, and made a ketchup commercial interesting. It even pointed out their message—thicker ketchup is better. (If only Hunt’s had thought of it?)

1. “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” (The Seekers) for Coca-Cola

Clearly #1. So much so that it still has its own page on Coke’s website…41 YEARS LATER.

Disagree? Or have a favorite of your own? Share it here.

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