Bad news for all those big brand marketers who have spent millions to secure the rights to add major label music to their TV ad campaigns, in the hopes of riding those sonic coattails.
I just taught the first installment of my USC Annenberg course, "Music as Communication," for the fall semester. One of the ways in which I introduced the course's themes to the students was playing songs for them and asking them to name the product the song advertised on TV. In a class of about 25 college students pre-selected to have an interest in music and communication, here were the results:
- Chemical Brothers - Galvanize (Budweiser): ZERO brand recognition
- Spoon - I Turn My Camera On (Jaguar): ZERO brand recognition
- Kelly Clarkson - Go (Ford): about 1/3 of students in the class
Sheesh. Even I know what the Chemical Brothers song advertises, and I don't even watch TV. In part, these results show the waning influence of television programming and advertising in the media consumption (and production) habits of today's youth. But maybe it also shows that young people's relationship to music is becoming more fluid, complex, and self-determined; the kids know the songs and the brands, they just don't identify the one with the other. Or maybe the commercials just sucked.
Strangest of all -- I played the new R&B hit "Me & U" by Cassie, released about two weeks ago, as part of a different section of the class on genre and race/gender/SES interpellation. Even though the song has yet to be used on television in conjunction with any commercial products (other than Cassie herself), several students in the class immediately identified Cassie's audience as Volkswagon Jetta-driving females.
So in other words, this song which hasn't been used in a TV commercial yet was more successful at evoking a specific make and model than songs which have appeared in car commercials in recent months.
Go figure. VW's agency should definitely get on the stick with this one.