Advertising Goes on the Record

Article excerpt

'Synchronisation' is the buzzword among record companies, increasingly keen to sell their wares to the ad industry.

How could we forget the tight backside and lean thighs as the young man in the launderette removed his jeans and put them in the washing machine?

As a selling gimmick in a TV commercial, it worked because most people recall that the ad was for Levi 501 jeans. Significantly, the accompanying signature song also sunk deep into our subconscious. Thus more than a decade later, Marvin Gaye's 1969 classic, I Heard It Through The Grapevine became a hit again with a new generation of listeners.

Gone are the days when music executives looked down on agencies as the lowest end of the audiovisual industry. In fact, the major record companies are planning or have set up a "synchronisation" division to maximise sales to the visual and audio media.

Agencies seeking original recordings are no longer pushed from pillar to post trying to unravel who owns the songs' copyrights, whether the composer or performer will object to the commercial itself or to a parody of the performance.

"Record companies are now more receptive and are more respectful of the influence of commercials," says John Hegarty, Bartle Bogle Hegarty's creative director. BBH launched the Levi 501 ad in 1985.

It is easy to see why. Free's All Right Now track, originally released in 1970, re-entered the sales chart last year after its use on the Wrigley chewing gum commercial. The campaign came from Abbott Mead Vickers' stable. Mad About the Boy, the Dinah Washington jazz number, reached only number 44 in the UK charts after it was re-released on the back of another Levi Jeans commercial. But it zoomed to the top ten in the Netherlands and Germany.

The downturn in music sales during the recession has prompted the record labels to exploit other avenues to generate extra income and boost sales.

PolyGram, estimated to have the largest share of the world's sound carrier market, employed Frances Osman about 18 months ago as its synchronisation manager. She is responsible for the secondary use of millions of songs in the company's international catalogue. A promotion catalogue of songs organised into different categories is distributed to the potential clients. "In fact, the package can cost up to US$25,000 to produce, but all you need is one good use of it and you get your money back straight away," says an industry expert.

Warner, another major music group, is consolidating its synchronisation operations. It supplied Rod Stewart's 1977 hit You're In My Heart for the new Peugeot 106 commercial.

Julie Lockwood, licensing executive at Warner, says: "We have a large repertoire which is underexploited at the moment. …