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….

Paul and Advertising

“The Beatles position is that they don’t sing jingles to peddle sneakers, beer, pantyhose or anything else,” said Apple’s attorney in a statement of July 18, 1987.  “Their position is that they wrote and recorded these songs as artists and not as pitchmen for any product.” [From the battle over Nike’s use of the song “Revolution”]

I was surprised to find while having a look around the website for 54th Grammy Awards (to be announced tomorrow February 12 in the US) to see an advertisement for JBL audio gear featuring Paul McCartney.

Clearly, well-prior to its official release just last week, deals were being done around his song “My Valentine”, and it’s already being used to market products. The YouTube copy reads in part:

“A life-long user of JBL equipment in the studio, on tour and at home, McCartney’s appearance as a JBL “Hear the truth” artist is a testament to the enduring impact the brand has had on musicians and music fans since the dawn of the rock era.  The video features his new single, “My Valentine,” from the album “Kisses on the Bottom,” which was released on February 7….”

The print ads look like this:

I’m not sure why I was surprised by this. Thinking about it some more McCartney has a history of associating his concerts, his music, and himself with commercial products. In fact he struck another deal prior to the release of “Kisses on the Bottom” – this time with the jewelers Tiffany and Co. Again one has to imagine this was largely attributable to the romance associated with Valentines Day, jewelry sales, and the song “My Valentine”. Tiffany and Co., on their website, offered for a limited time a free download of “Only Our Hearts“, one of the other two original McCartney songs (the other is “My Valentine”) from “Kisses on the Bottom”.

The Tiffany and Co. site also includes links to the “Kisses on the Bottom” album video Electronic Press Kit video, with McCartney and producer Tommy LiPuma talking with veteran rock writer Robert Hiburn. This was available on the Tiffany site before it was available anywhere else – even on McCartney’s own website.

Other overt and sometimes criticised commercial associations come to mind. There were two from 2005. The first is the CD “Never Stop Doing What You Love“:

This was a 15 track “Best Of” limited-edition CD, not for sale but given away to employees of the Boston-based company Fidelity Investments. The company were sponsors of McCartney’s 2005 US tour, and he became their official spokesman. According to Wikipedia, on the day of the CD release company employees were treated to a special recorded message by Paul himself informing them that “Fidelity and I have a lot in common” and urging them to “never stop doing what you love”. There were TV commercials and print ads featuring home-movie footage – the first time McCartney had ever given such personal footage to an ad campaign. He received considerable criticism for his celebrity endorsement of Fidelity Investments, which many considered to be a vulgar attempt to increase his already astounding wealth.

The second example also comes from 2005 and another major concert tour sponsor, the car-maker Lexus. Paul even had his own Lexus/McCartney website, and a limited McCartney signature-edition Lexus RX 400 SUV release, complete with a Hoffner Bass paint job. The idea was for Lexus to promote his latest album too, which was “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”.  To be fair the site was also used to promote one of Paul’s main charitable focuses at the time: Adopt-a-Minefield. Also from the association came this limited-edition 2 CD set:

This Lexus Tour Edition pack contained the 13-track “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” CD plus an exclusive 10-track “Motor of Love” compilation CD featuring McCartney “road-themed” songs like “The Back Seat of My Car” (originally from the album Ram, but this version from Wingspan); “Helen Wheels” (from Band on the Run – 25th Anniversary Edition); “Lonely Road” (from Driving Rain) and “Biker Like an Icon” (from Off the Ground). There were two rare live tracks: “Drive My Car” (from the Super Bowl XXXIX half-time show in Jacksonville, Florida on February 6, 2005), and “The Long and Winding Road” (from the Driving U.S. Tour, Annaheim, California, May 5, 2002. I’m pretty sure this is a different version than the one on the Back in the U.S. Live 2002 CD). The set is housed in a cardboard slipcase and was commercially available – but only for a brief time from US Lexus dealerships:

Of course, Paul McCartney lends his name and image to many a good cause too. Take cruelty to animals and PETA for example, an organisation he’s supported for years:

So, where do you sit on the question of commercial product endorsement? Does it worry you or change your view of the artist? Do you have any other advertising examples involving Paul or the other Beatles that you know of?

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By the way, McCartney is nominated for a 2012 Grammy in the category Best Historical Album for last year’s “Band on the Run”, the deluxe edition from the Paul McCartney Archive Collection.  He will perform at the event.