We 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.
For a very long time, having your product associated with the Beatles in any way has been considered advantageous….take this 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 and some former Monkees got themselves 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….