Julian Gratton

5 songs that sold their soul to be used in a TV advert

Advertising is all about appealing to an emotion to make a sale, and as we all know, our favourite songs are those that we have an emotional attachment to. So what better way to transfer the emotions you have for that song to a brand or product than to use it as part of an advertising campaign.

Sometimes Agencies and Clients use a song in a way that is accepted by Consumers. They’ll stump up the cash and respect the song and just use it as the soundtrack to their visuals. Or they’ll realise they can’t afford the original version and have a cover version created.

The songs we’re going to highlight in this article, though. Are the ones that have had their lyric sheets torn up… been re-written, tweaked, distorted and played with to benefit the advertiser. In some instances the results are actually quite fun… in others you can only wish you could go back in time to the advert’s creation and plead with them to stop!

McCain Microchips – ‘Quickety Quick’ based on The Coasters’ ‘Yakety Yak’

Back in the 1950s when Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of The Coasters sat down and penned this classic that spoke to the youth of the day… I bet they never thought for one second that it would be used in the future in a TV commercial to sell Microwave Chips!

I have a confession to make. I worked at the advertising agency (Poulters in Leeds) that created quite a few of the McCain chips adverts in the 1980s and 1990s. I even did one myself. So in some way I feel I should defend the use of this song… although I don’t in any way defend the fashions on display.

Starbucks – ‘Glen!’ based on Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’

I have to say, I absolutely love this advert. Eye of the Tiger believe it or not was one of the first singles I owned as a child and used to play it constantly. So when I first saw this advert not only did it bring a lot of great memories flooding back of playing that 45 piece of vinyl… I loved the sheer inventiveness of the execution of this ad… A great example of how to mess with a song if you’re going to do so.

Insignia ‘It’s all over now’ based on The Rolling Stones’ ‘All Over’

Another confession. I did once wear Insignia. Although, I’m pretty sure it was bought for me by my Parents… so I reckon I can be excused as I was probably only 14 when this product and advert came out (you can tell by the sound effects used on the logo).

What can’t be excused though is how this advert defecates over a great song and features the worst possible advice to a man since the history of advice to men… that being to cover yourself in an ‘All Over Body Programme’ of a fowl smelling toiletry product in order to make women run a mile from you. Thanks mum and dad!

Coca Cola ‘Thirstbuster’ based on Ray Parker Jr’s ‘Ghostbusters’

I bet Huey Lewis really hates this advert. Although he may also like it as I’m sure it in some way contributed to a hefty out of court settlement he allegedly received from Mr Jr. Anyway… I hope Mr Lewis does hate this advert as quite frankly it’s shocking and devoid of any idea and is just a blatant cash-in on a popular song of the time. It probably also contributed to the expanding waistlines of Americans (3 litres of Coke!!!)… and what the hell is Bill Cosby doing popping up at the end – random or what!!!!

Softmints ‘Mr Soft’ based on Steve Harley & The Cockney Rebel’s ‘Mr Soft’

If there’s one advert I remember fondly from my childhood it’s this classic. As a child it used to hold my attention and resulted in me scoffing lots of these minty treats… although I soon moved on to the fruit versions of them, which quickly became my post school treat of choice.

Many years later I’d be sat next to Steve Harley in a restaurant. He was a really nice bloke and he said hello and we indulged in some small talk. Gutted I never knew he wrote the original of this song… would have loved to have known what he thought of it!