Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World

03-Jul-2003

Obscure Songs in Commercials

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 3:04 pm

Last night, months after the commercial actually began airing, I finally discovered the name of the song used in that one Saturn commercial. You know… the one that takes place on a college campus and shows a couple of frat boys; it has a quite catchy old-school alternative rock tune in the background, but nowhere could I find any identification of the song. And that discovery got me thinking about the use of relatively obscure songs by independent artists in TV commercials.

It’s been done quite frequently, especially in automobile ads from the likes of Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, and– more recently– Saturn. And it’s actually quite a neat idea: if it’s done right, you end up not only selling your own product, but also influencing the sales of albums by the musician whose music is featured in the ad.

But that’s exactly the problem: though Volkswagen and Mitsubishi did it right, Saturn managed to mess things up.

How so? Upon hearing a song that I really like in a commercial, I’ll often go to the site of the company in question to see if they have any press releases that might identify the song. In the case of Volkswagen, there was an easy-to-find link with quite a clear identification of the background music (and even a CD compilation of the tracks for sale!); in the case of Mitsubishi, the link was buried somewhat in the site, but it nonetheless exists. But whither Saturn? Nowhere on Saturn’s site could I find any identification of the music in the ads; though some of them were downloadable, nothing was to be found about the music used within. In my opinion, that’s the worst sort of sellout: featuring a little-known group’s music in a commercial but doing nothing to actually promote the group.

So, for people who are still curious as to the song IDs from the Saturn Ion commercials, here’s the track listing, as culled from various message board postings:

Prom: “Forever Young” by Alphaville
Childhood: “We’ve Been Had” by The Walkmen
Wedding: a remixed version of Pachelbel’s Canon
College: “Tiny Spark” by Brendan Benson

EDITED 8 December 2003: To make things easier to manage, and to clear up some space in this blog comment thread, I’m closing comments on this post and setting up a message forum for future questions on the topic of music in commercials. Sorry for the inconvenience, but this page has grown just a bit too large…

EDITED 18 July 2004: Some of you who got here via Google are probably wondering what the songs used in the more recent Adult Swim eyecatches are. Well, here’s a forum thread with all the info, direct from Williams Street. You’ll need to register for their forums, but it’s worth it; the thread in question is about 50 pages long now. And I actually tracked down a few of the songs on that thread, too. 🙂

More fun with Google

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 1:39 pm

The latest news from the search request files:

  • cover letter exsamples – Not only did the resulting page not refer to cover letters– only letters of the alphabet and covering steps with a ramp– the mention of “exsamples” was due to a previous search request. Admittedly, though, the searcher was Danish…
  • Address of Sai Gunturi and Samir Patel, Winner of Spelling Bee – No, I didn’t have that information on hand, but the search request nonetheless receives some points for its geekiness. ::grin::
  • “linguistic pedantry” – Now that’s my kind of search.
  • light saber theory – Granted, my page had nothing about the theory of how light sabers work, but I suppose the searcher was attracted to my site because the summary contained the hilariously Babelfished “combat of light-light-light-light-light-light-light-light-saber”.
  • Engish Classes flyer – That reminds me, I still need to scan in the flyer in question[Edit 2003-08-13: I’ve since scanned it in.]

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