When Mercedes Benz purchased the rights to “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin for a car commercial, it seemed like someone at the ad agency was trying to be too hip and ironic for their own good.
When Ronald Reagan wanted to use “Born in the USA” as a campaign theme song, it was clearly a case of “unclear on the concept.” Make that completely clueless.
When Cadillac appropriated Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” to sell sedans, it was a boring company trying to remake its image.
When Royal Caribbean Cruises chose Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” to sell vacations, you can bet they depended upon a large segment of their target population being unfamiliar with the ode to wretched excess.
But the low-water mark for the misuse of great rock songs* in pursuit of filthy lucre has always been Nike’s “Revolution” campaign….
Until the other day, when I saw a Kaiser Permanente ad set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’.” The voiceover prattled on to the effect that it was time to make a revolution in your lifestyle habits.
A generation’s greatest declaration of war upon the times they in which they found themselves, reduced to an exhortation to exercise and eat right.
Solipsism is alive and well in America.
*Of course, there is always the misuse of classical or religious music in commerce. A few years ago, when Mitsubishi used seventh movement to Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring” in a commercial, I wanted to throw something through my television. “Appalachian Spring” – or at least the movement used in the ad – lifts the melody from the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”, a deep and profoundly moving piece of anti-materialist music.