Now That's What I Call... Music in Advertising 2018
MassiveMusic producer James Bargent examines the musical trends from 2018 and makes some predictions for the year ahead.
2018 was twelve months of marinating in the nervous sweat of the events triggered in the years previous. There have been almost as few surprises as Thom Yorke sings about, but there have been swathes of change.
It’s a year that said bravery means stepping into the darkness. If you’re left reaching for the red pill then hold on for a few more moments, the rabbit hole just got deeper.
Above: MassiveMusic's producer, James Bargent.
Advertising is inextricably tangled in this social weave. It’s an industry whose success is measured by its relevance and mass appeal. Much like Rebecca Black, music has been kickin’ in the front seat of this automotive journey of change across last year. Since emotion and subjectivity are taking full-reign over our decisions, and music is as emotional and subjective as it gets without drinking gin alone on a Monday morning, you gotta make your mind up - which seat will you taaaaaake?
"John Lewis’ profits for the first half of 2018 were said to be "close to zero", yet wisely the marketing budget seems to have been well-protected."
The retail tide is turning...
Not that you’d know it if you’ve been forced onto the Oxford Street conveyor belt on a Saturday afternoon, but high street retail faces stiff challenges. John Lewis’ profits for the first half of 2018 were said to be "close to zero", yet wisely the marketing budget seems to have been well-protected.
Perception is so crucial, and allowing quality to wane would be a blatant sign of weakness. The emotional pang that John Lewis targets has always been fuelled by the music, and last year that certainly didn't wane. The Elton-JohnLewis Christmas advert would have come at a cost, but it’s one that's justified. It has refreshed the format at a time when the retailer is reconsidering its strategy.
The current popularity of music biopics is certainly no coincidence here. John Lewis came out just weeks after the trailer for Rocketman, the Elton John biopic. And the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, came out a matter of weeks after the John Lewis + Partners rebrand ad, which re-recorded that exact song. The ads are in tune with the times, sure, but are they a greater benefit for the film companies than the brands? Maybe.
Hype sells. Maybe that should be the new hashtag. #hypesells... Sex isn’t selling much these days anyway
If smart ideas involve copying others, then whoever decided on the Sainsburys Christmas ad was a genius. All the same ingredients are here: a children’s show-night, an amateur effort at singing a famous song, and totally inappropriate pyrotechnics for a school environment.
The song choice, New Radicals' You Get What You Give, is an enticingly unexpected one for a Christmas advert. It proves that the packaging is key, and in this case, it was gift wrapped by Rowan Atkinson in Love, Actually.
"Not everything need form part of a media-engineered patchwork of social movements and economic trends. It’s refreshing when something is created simply for craft’s sake."
Taboo: Pipes and organs
Cultural shifts are accelerating so rapidly that you can see the hairs grow. Tastes change and taboos somersault; we’ve aged a lot in the last twelve months.
Industry rules and popular opinion are fast making taboos of archaic attitudes and subjects that were, only minutes ago, shamelessly paraded in advertising. Stereotypes, body image and inequality; marketers would be better advised to send infernal hate mail to everyone in their GDPR mailing lists than to flirt with these unfashionable fiends.
As these weeds are tugged from the soil, the taboos of decades gone are unearthed, cultivated and encouraged to grow. These days, you’re more likely to see a singing vagina or a talking penis than a brand perpetuating political incorrectness.
Libresse’s cover of Take Yo' Praise by Camille Yarbrough was a perfect choice, and very well executed in this re-recording. The lyric, ‘We’ve come a long, long way together’, hits the spot, so to speak.
Singing vulvas, nipples, urethras, it’s not only brand commercials getting all titillated by hypersensitive nerve endings. Music promos, too, want a tinkle on the organs. Janelle Monáe appeared in an impressive vagina outfit for her video, PYNK.
Marketing really has embraced labial expression. If this is an evolution of the singing nipples we saw in 2017’s Everybody Loves Boobs for MACMA, could this new body-proud epoch mean, for next year, the ascendance of some yet uncharted body part we’ve been too embarrassed to admit exists?
"Mouths will become secondary to other orifices as a means of communication, with desexualised sexual organs taking preference over all else for marketing messages. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons arranged with… I’ll let your biology textbook finish the creative on that one."
I’ve heard that before...
Not everything need form part of a media-engineered patchwork of social movements and economic trends. It’s refreshing when something is created simply for craft’s sake. No need to surgically insert a hashtag or social-change appendage.
What’s that? Another re-record? Yes. Undoubtedly the year was about giving voice to ordinary folk. When the media cares more about what Terry Twayne thinks on Twitter than what experts have to say, it’s no surprise we’re seeing more real-lives appearing in adverts too. But in a landscape saturated with vignettes of ordinary people with below average voices it’s refreshing to hear a re-record that you would actually be happy to listen to without the context of the advert.
Into the future...
If trends die hard, then allow me to make a few predictions for 20the year ahead:
- Tesco will launch a campaign featuring a young, computer-generated David Bowie three weeks before the biopic, Starman, hits Leicester Square.
- Mouths will become secondary to other orifices as a means of communication, with desexualised sexual organs taking preference over all else for marketing messages. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons arranged with… I’ll let your biology textbook finish the creative on that one.
- The fascination with casting amateur singers will bleed into film production where you have a team of cashiers and taxi drivers trying to produce a satirical thirty-second commercial for Amazon Prime Video based around a scene from James Bond.
Thanks for reading. I know you didn’t have to.
You can take the red pill now.
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