Beatles and Advertising

I wrote recently about Paul McCartney advertising for JBL and Tiffany. It’s not the first time he’s allowed his name and music to be associated with commercial products:

Its actually a tradition that goes way back – to the very start of Beatlemania:

George and John were clearly just fooling around back then – but you get the point. For a very long time, having your product associated with the Beatles in any way has been considered advantageous….

Next we move from the very old to a very modern, and much more tastefully designed, directed and edited commercial – with a soundtrack provided by you know who:

You gotta admit at least that was clever and stylish. Not so much this unfortunate one Ringo Starr got himself  (and some former Monkees) involved in a while back – for Pizza Hut:

I guess there’s a big difference between Beatles songs being used in a commercial and an actual personal endorsement – although the Ringo example had both…..

Turns out Beatle songs being used in advertising is much more frequent than you might first imagine. In 2007 for example “Hello Goodbye” was licensed for use by Target to promote its stores:

Back in 2002 Julian Lennon recorded “When I’m Sixty Four” specifically for a retirement investment ad for the US company Allstate:

That then raises the question of actual, original Beatle recordings being used, as opposed to re-recordings by anonymous studio musicians. Which is more offensive to you, if at all?

One famous example of a real, iconic Beatles song being used was provided by Nike in 1987, and it caused an absolute uproar:

“If it’s allowed to happen, every Beatles song ever recorded is going to be advertising women’s underwear and sausages. We’ve got to put a stop to it in order to set a precedent. Otherwise it’s going to be a free-for-all. It’s one thing when you’re dead, but we’re still around! They don’t have any respect for the fact that we wrote and recorded those songs, and it was our lives.” — George Harrison (November 1987)

It didn’t stop of course, and for many fans the ultimate insult came with “All You Need is…Luvs” – a commercial for disposable nappies…

And that’s not the only time that same, famous Beatles song has been used. Blackberry got in on the act with this one:

Of course, control over their song catalogue has long been out of the Beatles hands. They no longer own the rights and therefore have very little say in how songs they wrote might be used (although Paul McCartney does control all his subsequent solo work). That begs the question: are the surviving Beatles themselves ever consulted about which of their songs are used and how? The Independent newspaper says it is unclear if McCartney or Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, approved use of “All You Need is Love” for the Blackberry commercial. It does however say that in 2008 Sony/ATV (owners of the catalogue) said it had a “moral obligation” to contact them before giving approving to such projects.

Ono herself has not been free of criticism. She apparently gave permission for an actor to overdub John Lennon’s voice on some archival footage which was turned into an advertisement for a Citroen car:

In May last year I posted on Beatlesblogger about the Australian city of Brisbane using “Come Together” to advertise what a great place Brisbane was after their big flood event. It looks like the organisers have since taken down their YouTube video of that commercial, probably because they only paid for the use of the song for a limited time.

The more you delve into this question of the Beatles and advertising the more examples you find. Maybe its best to just stop here before it gets too depressing….

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9 thoughts on “Beatles and Advertising

  1. Do you remember the UK ad for Shell in the 80s? They used ‘The Two Of Us’ and, I have a feeling, it was the first time The Fabs allowed their music to advertise anything. Funnily enough it’s not available on Youtube!

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  2. from what I remember he did other commercials in late 70’s. Really a downhill of his career. Sad really. What we do not realize is that the Beatles till anthology project, were not the top class celebrities like now. Just check the prices of Paul’s autographs, in the early 90’s and now….

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  3. When I first started reading this post, I thought to myself, “I must add a comment about ‘All You Need Is Love'”, only my reference goes much further back. In the early 1970s in Australia, I can remember (as a very small boy) a TV advertisement for a dogfood, “LUV mince for dogs”, which used either the original recording or a remake of the song. The ad would always end on the line “Love is all you need”. It was several years later when I started getting into the Beatles that I realised – to my shock and surprise – the dogfood jingle was actually a Beatles tune! In hindsight, I wonder whether it was officially sanctioned or just “gotten away with”.

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  4. does any one remember in the late 60’s early 70’s a tv commercial that contained the swarmandel(like a harp) part of Strawberry Fields used in a commercial. There was this guy walking down an empty street and he picks up a newspaper out of a trash can looks at it then throws it back. The commercial was for some kind of federal assistance program for something I think. I just kind o0f remember it being aired in prime time tv. I lived in mid Illinois at the time.

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