All posts in Branding

Brands at Cannes: Here’s who should go home with Lions.

With all the problems we have in the world, us advertising professionals patting ourselves on the back is a bit ridiculous. Countries are at war. People are starving. Rob Ford is wiping smoothie chunks from his International Clothiers blazer. Aren’t there more critical problems to solve and more important people to celebrate?

Of course there are. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do support Cannes.

Acknowledged work from around the world gives us all something to shoot for during the other 51 weeks of the year. It inspires us. It drives us. It informs us. And it is the source of that nagging realization that what we’re working on isn’t quite good enough. Yet.

Here’s who I think should go home form Cannes with some hardware. Put them into whatever category you want. These are the ones that’ll continue to motivate me over the next 12 months (in order of importance)

Red Bull Stratos
Whenever you think you have a great idea, ask yourself, “Is it as good as orchestrating the first human to ever break the sound barrier without any form of engine power?”. Sure, this was a really cool brand-appropriate initiative. But more than that, it redefined the editorial / advertising relationship and proved that consumers will tune into great content, regardless of who pays the bill for its creation.

Oreo Daily Twist
“You can still dunk in the dark” was one of my favourite executions of the year but let’s not forget that its spike was set up by a year long volley from the Daily Twist. Oreo didn’t just sign up for creating compelling content, they committed to it in a fun and progressive and consistent way. It was always fresh. And we kept coming back for more. Isn’t that what it’s all about?


Philips Walita Fruit Mashup
Oh, you made a QR Code? Big deal. These people invented new fruit.

Coca-Cola Small World Machines: India and Pakistan
Getting people from two nations who always seem to be on the brink of war to virtually touch hands with one another was more than just a nice story. It was a hint of Coke’s global content plan and a reminder that brands can (and should) be good. More than that, what do you think is more important? Bringing peace (however long or short it was) to a dangerous zone or paying Beyonce a lot of money to dance with your product? One has a soul. The other has a star.

McDonald’s: Our Food. Your Questions.
Thanks to this campaign, there’s a new definition of creativity. It’s called honesty. In a surprising turn of events out there, clever has been trumped by genuine. Smoke and mirrors have been defeated by transparency. And McDonald’s has won over skeptics. Congrats Tribal DDB. You absolutely nailed it.

Ragu’s Long Day of Childhood.
Everything about this campaign feels old school. There’s the food porn, the bite and smile, the cheezy track and more. Who cares? It features a wonderful insight and hilarious scenarios that can keep going as long as we want them to. I haven’t seen a campaign with legs like this since “Real American Heroes / Real Men of Genius”. Keep ‘em coming.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches.
I know, I know. Some of you wise ones out there dissected this down to the molecular level to justify your Negative Nancy perspective. Well, that’s wrong. You’re over thinking it. How a woman thinks she looks is a symptom of a lack (or abundance) of self confidence. Beauty may not be important but the underlying self esteem that warps our perception of ourselves is. If we don’t think we’re beautiful, we probably don’t think we’re as smart or as funny as we are either. Great concept. Great execution.

Canadian Marketing Predictions for 2013.

So here we are. After eating too many “Quality Streets”, watching too many World Junior hockey games and shoveling too much snow, you’re probably ready to leap into 2013 with a fresh perspective and 5 extra pounds.

What can you look forward to? Well, this:

1. Content partnerships will rule.
On one hand, there are more media opportunities than ever before as specialty networks, web video, and content marketing explode. On the other, the big players are investing heavily in media convergence and consolidation. So what’ll it be?

Truthfully, Canada just doesn’t have the population to justify a ton of brand specific media properties. Content WILL rule but the most effective path to content marketing north of the border will be through partnerships. Brands will partner with media companies and with each other, and we’ll see more interest-focused platforms opposed to brand-focused platforms. Why? Because we have to. It would be nice if we could all be Red Bull but we can’t. There aren’t enough eyeballs and there isn’t enough budget to create stand alone properties in the true north strong and never free.

2. McDonald’s (and Tribal DDB) will win every major advertising prize.
Were there more beautifully shot commercials? Yup. Were there better scripts? You bet. Still, advertising has changed and no initiative embraced the new way to communicate with consumers more than “Our Food. Your Questions.” Sometimes, an epic commercial  with a cast of thousands and a budget to match can do wonders for a business. But it’s not a huge intellectual leap to make. This campaign was different in every way and showed us that transparent dialogue with consumers trumps all. Here’s hoping it’s acknowledged accordingly.

3. The Advertising Testimonial Will Be Redefined.
Ahhh, testimonials. You’ve never seen an informercial without them. Tune in and you can see people shot in their natural environment coached to say strategically relevant soundbites delivered with a performance matched only by Palmerston Public School’s production of West Side Story. With so many honest and genuine testimonials generated through various social media platforms, scripting testimonials isn’t only outdated, it’s ineffective. Let’s hope brands start getting it right.










4. Prepare to be Offended.
There’s a lot of clutter. Blah, blah. You’ve heard it before. But combine that difficulty of cutting through with the financial realities of traditional media and the success of their alternative counterparts and I think you’ll start to see edgier communications from the historically conservative.

The photo and headline from this provocative Time cover caused quite a stir, didn’t they? The complaints flew in from the shocked masses…but so did sales. It was one of the best selling issues of the year and doubled the usual weekly subscription rates. Same goes for the Bloomberg love-fest. And it’s not just covers. Like the regular F-bombs of the Drunk Jays Fans blog? Well, they’re now available through The Score, a traditional outlet now owned by Rogers.

Like never before, it pays to grab our attention. Watch out, 2013. You’re about to be grabbed and depending on your sensitivities, it might hurt. (For the record, I love it. Bring it on.)

5. Canadian Shopping Becomes Supreme
It doesn’t really matter whether you shop virtually or traditionally, I think this is the year that Canadian retailers start to get it right. As a group, they’ve been pretty slow to adopt e-commerce platforms but Target shows up in March, Walmart is rapidly expanding and hopefully, the entire industry ups their game with compelling communications and e-savvy experiences to compete. Sears has started a re-brand (don’t really like it but anything is better than repetitive Sears Days), Canadian Tire has a new spokesperson, and Canada Post is doing some pretty interesting things to help everyone fulfill more profitably.

What’s in store? Hopefully, success.

6. Repurposing Events as Ads
Budweiser’s Flash Fans. Coke’s 007 Stunt. Volkswagen’s Fun Theory. Tropicana’s Arctic Sun. And TNT’s Push to Add Drama. For the past several years, we’ve seen a lot of live events that have been experienced by a few only to repurposed for many as ads for the participating brands. As consumers push for more authentic experiences and communications and as brands become more heavily invested in online brand channels, this trend will certainly continue. We’ll see even more of it in 2013. What will we see less of? The “Gleeification” of advertising with singing flash mobs dancing and prancing their way across our multiple screens. One can hope.

7. Media agencies get it.
Every time I speak to a pure media company with networks, magazines, radio stations, or even blogs for sale, I get the same hushed conversation with a request to never to repeat it. “How do we get around the media agencies to speak directly to the creative people?”

Media agencies can be the biggest barrier to new thinking and better work. But it’s not their fault.

With media commissions at ridiculously low levels, media agencies have had to staff their accounts with young people and have piled more accounts on to their plates. Better thinking requires time for meetings and discussions. Why invest in that when checking CARD for standard rates lets you move on to the next project?

I think we’ll see a change this year. Media shops are changing the way they bill, they’re investing in different lines of revenue and they’re finally seeing the value of real content partnerships. If clients demand more and change the way they compensate their media partners, and if media players become more proactive in their own thinking, media agencies won’t just come to the table with great thinking. They’ll also come as the keepers of the budget. That will carry a lot of weight.

8. At the same time, this is the year that creative shops hire media people.
Big thinking can’t be bought with negotiated rates and full-page ad costs. It requires open thinking and entrepreneurial discussions with appropriate partners around the table. Some creative shops will realize that their best media planner is their creative team or their strategic planner. All that will be left will be signing the contracts. If you’re a creative media person, this could be a big year for you.

9. Tons of people will flock to Dx3.
I’m certainly involved with Dx3 as Chief Content Curator and I’m clearly biased. But in a year where digital marketing, digital advertising and digital retail all have to come together for a better Canadian consumer experience, it will be critical that people learn. There are a lot of questions and people are starting to panic in their search for the answers. I think we’ve assembled a ton of great speakers and companies who can help. Here’s hoping you’ll join us. Feel free to either register at Dx3 Canada or send me an email and tell me you don’t want to be pitch slapped in my blog posts. : )




Business should busk.

What marketers can learn from street performers.

I’ve always thought that buskers were “Carnies with Talent”, working their way around the world entertaining suburban dads decked out in a Tilley hat and a willingness to be embarrassed in front of a crowd of assembled strangers. Now, given your average street performer makes less than minimal wage over a 40 hour work week, it may not seem like there’s much to learn from them. But there is.

Busking is the epitome of the cold call.

No brand awareness. No liquidation sale. No inbound marketing techniques. A busker has the unenviable task of selling their product in an environment filled with the direct  competition and booths with food and face painting that distract their customers even more. In one 20 minute set, they have to build an audience, deliver their product and then ask for voluntary payment. Is there a more pure business transaction in the world? I doubt it. Here’s what we can learn.

1. They build a unique product.
When you’re competing against other performers, you can’t simply do what the other guy is doing. Even if you’re juggling stuff, you have to look unique, act unique, sound unique and in some cases, smell unique. And when you hit the stage, you better have invested the time to perfect your product. Who’s going to invest the time watching someone perfect their bit when there are so many other perfect options available?

2. They use the audience to build an audience.
Stepping into an empty space, a busker has to immediately create interest in his or her product without the benefit of a social media agency to help them do it.

To build an audience, they simply start with one person. They’ll politely ask an innocent bystander to get involved. “Can you hold this? Can you stand there? Can you put your hand up?” Volunteers aren’t given the 3 year strategic plan and asked to share with their friends – they’re just asked to do something simple. They’re involvement intrigues others to at least stand around and wait to see what’s going to happen. Even the most skeptical will wonder what we’re missing when a crowd starts to form.

3. VIP access for early adopters.
Why hang around waiting for something to happen when there are so many other options? Well, anyone who has been to a busker festival knows that the early adopters get front row seating. They get to see more and hear more and if they’re lucky, there’s a chance that they’ll actually get to star in the show. There should be a reward for those who stuck with us even when there wasn’t any show to speak of. I hope I never forget that.

4. Make ‘em feel special.
A positive attitude creates a positive experience. Every time someone does something, says something, or volunteers to join the show, the professional busker initiates a response with the age-old, “Let’s give Phil a really big hand, folks…” And it doesn’t just make the volunteer feel ridiculously special. It creates intrigue for customers who may be bored at another show. We consumers don’t want to think we’re missing out on something. With this strategy, the bigger a crowd gets, the bigger the crowd will get.

5. They use humour.
I don’t think puns or sexual innuendo are funny. Apparently, I’m in the vast minority. While crowds bellowed at lame one-liners, I was heard muttering, “They think this shit is funny?” Oh well. Regardless of the specific tone of the humour, I think we can all agree that humour is critical when building relationships.

6. They ask to get paid. 

Can you imagine if agencies had to complete a campaign before asking, “How much do you think that was worth?” Yikes. Part of me thinks agencies would actually make more. Well, that’s what these folks do every day of the week. And those who are good at it make more. When they make more, they can perform more.

The approach is usually honest: “I do this as my job and the festival doesn’t pay me.”
It’s rational: “Can you see a show this good for $10 for your entire family?”
It’s promotional: “If you give $20, you get a free DVD.”
It’s humourous: “If you give $10, you’ll go home happy. If you give $100, you’ll go home with me.”

I always feel bad asking for dough. I think I may change my approach.

It’s not like I’m asking brand managers to get a guitar case, work on stilts or juggle their product while it’s in flames. But there’s a lot we can learn from our nomadic creative colleagues. We all want to build community, give a good show and create applause. But unless people put money in our cap, we won’t survive.

If you want to check out more photos I took at Buskerfest, click here. 

This Dr. Pepper campaign isn’t sexist. It’s bad.

Hello, ladies. Look at this ad. Now back to me. Now back at this ad. Sadly, we’re all a little bit sexist, aren’t we?

Dr. Pepper launched a new drink targeting guys called Dr. Pepper Ten. The spot is below.

While good brands massage their tone and messaging to appeal to a specific target, this one is kinda unique because it blatantly excludes females by saying, “Not for Women”. There’s even a Facebook page only visible to guys with such manly gems as The Manly Shooting Gallery and Name Your Sausage (I picked “Chorizo” which wasn’t the right answer.) As if that wasn’t enough, pop-up Man Caves will appear in select US cities.

People are kinda freaking out. Ad Chickadee is asking people to sign a petition to “remove this sexist ad” and respected AdRants said there was “…no reason to pit one sex against the other…”

Do I like this ad? No I do not.
As a guy, does it speak to me? No it does not.
Will I buy this product? No I will not.

But is it sexist? I guess it is by definition but when we still have gender imbalance in income levels and household duties and women are still marginalized by “babes in bikinis” for just about every beer brand on the planet, I think we have more important gender issues to fight for.

As a guy, I don’t connect with this campaign just as I fail to connect with manly ads for pickup trucks, meat-lovers pizza, and domestic beer. Sure, they don’t say, “Not for women” but they might as well. And what about the hundreds of CPG spots that depict the husband as bumbling idiots while their wives do that all-knowing wink to the camera? Are those sexist? Hell, even the toast of ad-town Old Spice claimed that if I stopped using lady scented body wash, I could smell like a chiseled former NFL player. Was it sexist or just targeting burly men who proudly define themselves as one?

I drive a Volvo. I’m not handy. I despise action movies. And I don’t own any Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Hockey DVDs. I can’t be further from the image of men depicted in most advertising. But I’m ok with it because I vote with my dollars by not purchasing those products. I don’t waste my time or space in gender discussions to complain about it. I just say “no thanks” and move on.

Good advertising should always connect with specific people. Some of those people are women who like traditional “girly stuff” or men who like “macho stuff”. And if there aren’t enough guys who relate to a soft drink that is exclusively male then sales will plummet, business will suffer, and people will get fired.

Ordering them to take it down seems foolish when it’ll come crashing down organically if people vote with their wallets.

Call me old school but I think Dr. Pepper should have the opportunity to fail just like the rest of us.

For part 2 of this, read the post Who’s guilty? Advertising, Paris Hilton, or me?

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I was working away tonight and had turned off all distractions when I got a text from my girlfriend.

“Did you hear Steve Jobs died?”

I didn’t know him. Never met him. I didn’t even have the opportunity to actually ever see him in person. He wasn’t Canadian. He didn’t attend my university. He didn’t share my ethnic heritage. He was simply the founder and CEO of a company based in another country on the other side of the continent.

But he influenced me.

For most of my life, I’ve worked as a creative in the advertising industry. And for all of those years, I was inspired by Steve Jobs.

Was it because creative departments proudly used his computers and software? No.
Was it because he was behind my favourite spot, “Think Different”? No.
Was it because he approved what is widely considered as the best and most effective TV spot of all time, “1984”? No.
Was it because he lead a company that is THE branding case study? No.
Was it because he created brilliant products that people didn’t even realize they wanted? No.
Was it because he completely overhauled his business model creating the most valuable company in the world? No.

It was because he did something that all of us who work in this business try to do every single day: He succeeded simply by doing what was right.

His ads were what all ads SHOULD be.
His design was what all design SHOULD be.
His business was what all businesses SHOULD be.
He proved that the really successful didn’t need to resort to sales, promotions, or starbursts. He proved that a corporation COULD connect with people emotionally.
He proved that good taste wasn’t just a creative thing, it was the right thing.

Even when I had a hand in creating some brilliant work – work that I am extremely proud of – I compared it to his. And it never measured up.

Thanks for the inspiration, Steve. Thanks for being that bar that all of us try to reach in every piece of communication we create.

I promise to stay hungry and stay foolish. And I’ll always remind myself to think different.
Something tells me that’s the way you would have wanted it.

Warning!!! These ads will shock you.

Challenged with a cluttered marketplace, bad marketers (like the ones behind this ad for Fluid Hair Salon in Edmonton), shamefully take a marketing short cut by just shocking consumers to achieve breakthrough.

Am I offended? Absolutely.
But I’m offended as a marketer.

First of all, I totally can appreciate that this ad offends some people. Victims of domestic abuse don’t need to face a depiction of their horror blatantly used to help sell a $40 perm. Still, I don’t think it gets us beyond a “Yes it is / No it isn’t” debate. In the grand scheme of things, we have bigger fish to fry but if you want to complain or boycott or write a letter, go ahead.

Does this ad stand out? Yup. You bet.
You know what else would get them noticed? Repeatedly kicking a puppy in front of the salon. If it’s all about awareness then why not go all the way?

The point is, it’s NOT about standing out.

It should be about building a relevant, genuine, compelling and valuable brand and THEN communicating it in a unique way. Their campaign, “Look good in all you do” lacks real consumer insight and fails to communicate a clear product benefit or differentiation. It’s just lazy marketing in the same way that Dane Cook is lazy stand up comedy. Sure, it gets your attention but after the shock, you’re left realizing there’s not much substance behind it.

Funny enough, they do have some interesting things to say beyond domestic abuse. Apparently, they recycle hair for the production of oil spill mats. That’s kinda cool. And not something I’ve ever heard of before. Why not lead with that?

Benetton it’s not.
Remember this campaign?

Benetton created controversy with their advertising from the early 90’s. The difference between this stellar work and Fluid’s campaign is simple: Benetton stood for something positive. They believed in uniting colours. So while a photo of a white man kissing a black woman may have shocked some, it shouldn’t have. Their progressive social stance was clear and those who disagreed were able to make an appropriate and informed consumer choice.

I’m still not sure what Fluid believes in. Feminine strength in the face of adversity? Superficial composure in the face of adversity? Edgy communications for an edgy product?
After reading all the reports, blog posts, responses and media articles relating to this issue, here’s my final thought on this subject:  I don’t think Fluid owner Sarah Cameron or her “creative consultant” Tiffany Jackson are horrible people.

They’re just horrible marketers.

Even in managing the response, it’s clear that they’re in over their heads. Sarah needs to turn to a real professional in Edmonton (I can provide some names) before this gets even worse.
Remember: A blunder like this can taint you but your response to it will define you.

The campaign states that you should “Look good in all you do”. It’s time for Fluid to follow their own advice.

Don’t be a Polaroid.

I still remember the day.

I was wearing Montreal Alouette sneakers, a hand-me-down Adidas T-shirt, short-shorts, and an Expos hat on top of a homemade Lego haircut. It was the mid-70s and my mom gathered us four kids to take a picture. But she wasn’t just using a camera.

She was using a Polaroid.

I know, I know.. many of us consider Polaroid a retro brand who’s claim to fame is inspiring the Instagram format and the odd Outkast lyric.

But before you write it off, think about life BEFORE polaroid.

Your camera was horizontal Tetris piece and the flash was a vertical tower of power that connected to the top. It featured 12 little flint flashes that individually burst into flames when initiated. Then, you had to GET IN YOUR CAR and drop off your film to a pimply faced teen who sat in a Fotomat (fishing hut) in the middle of a mall parking lot. 2 months later, after a lab in russia developed them, you got your photos. 

Then Polaroid showed up.

Talk about a life-changing innovation. It didn’t just make life a little better. It drastically changed consumer behaviour. People no longer had to drive. Labs no longer had to develop. And photos could be enjoyed instantly (well, almost instantly – first you had to shake it, shake it…)

What a wonder! What a truly brilliant innovation! What a company! What a brand!

Polaroid has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Twice.

Sure, they were saved by a private equity group, have adequately licensed their name and currently feature a range of products including everything from sunglasses to printers. Hell, they even hired Lady Gaga as Creative Director. But I think you’ll agree that they literally (and legally) are a shell of their former selves.

There’s an important lesson in there:
It’s one thing to innovate. It’s quite another to keep on innovating.
The hot thing (and the profits that go along with it) may be great today but it can be one line of code away from being replaced by something else that makes consumers’ lives even easier.

It also applies to people.

You may be flying high and on top of your game one day and be obsolete the next simply because you didn’t change, adapt, or learn. People – not just brands – have to continue to innovate.

You may want to be many things. I just hope you don’t want to be a Polaroid.

Yes, I’ll say it: Marketers should become Beliebers.

If you’re like me, you may have relegated Justin Bieber to teeny bopper status as a more successful, solo, Canadian version of Menudo (only with better hair).

Well, I was wrong.

On advice from Guy Kawasaki, I recently checked out the movie Never Say Never. Guy said it was the best marketing movie he had seen. I have to agree. Every brand manager in the country should check it out and become Beliebers. Here’s why:

He started with a great product.
I’ll admit that I assumed Justin fell into the American Idol camp of people who “applied” for celebrity status instead of working for it. He didn’t. He studied, learned, played, and sang. He started playing the drums at 3, had his first public show at 9, and was busking by 11. While he may have had a natural inclination towards fame, he actually worked his butt off to become a skilled musician before fame was ever in the cards. Music was his passion and focusing on the passion created a better product.

He didn’t rush to market.
If Justin Bieber had been a product developed by a publicly traded company, he would have been shipped right after the Youtube Beta to hit forecasted revenue targets. They would have spent more time developing the Facebook page than the musician. They would have negotiated a partnership with Disney, created branded content with First Choice Haircutters and had a duet with Connie Talbot all before he was 10. He didn’t.

Yes, he’s young. But he’s a grizzled veteran who’s probably been singing longer than Pauly D has been DJing.

He created a new category.
Even I know he was discovered by Usher but that was only after every major record label turned him down. The experts thought he needed a platform or gimmick to sell his product because that’s what had worked for Miley, Britney, Justin and others.

He (and admittedly, his advisor Scooter Braun) didn’t want to do be the cute kid on a Nickelodeon show although that would have been tempting at the time. They were willing to create their own category instead of following the “Best Practices” of those who preceded him. Do you really think he would have succeeded musically if he was first introduced as a pre-pubescent male on a spin-off of Hannah Montana? I don’t think so. He did it his way.

He’s social to the core.
We all know that next to Lady Gaga, he’s embraced social media better than anyone. Millions of followers and friends. But what’s lost in the numbers is that those are just the tools he’s used. His real strength is the commitment to being social. He didn’t just hire an agency to create a social media platform, he actually had a willingness to connect with people long before he was tweeting. To quote Scooter Braun, “There isn’t a DJ in this country who hasn’t met Justin Bieber.” A brand that has a willingness to connect in person naturally succeeds when they connect through social media.

Customer service that surprises and delights.
In every city he performs in, his team distributes free tickets to unsuspecting fans (cue the shrills of excitement from gaping mouths filled with braces). When he sings Lonely Girl – apparently, a song of his – he calls someone on stage, gives them flowers and serenades them.

“Little things go a very, very long way. And the moment we forget that I think it’s over.” (Scooter Braun)

As a Canadian, I’m proud of his success and hope he doesn’t become the MySpace of the music industry. He’ll have to innovate to stay ahead of the competition. He’ll have to continue to listen to and connect with his customers. And he’ll have to simply keep working. Only 45 more years to retirement!

Want to have a laugh at Justin’s expense? Check out Gordon Pinsent reading from JB’s memoirs.

Update: Since I wrote this, I realized that Guy Kawasaki also wrote about this subject for OPEN Forum. It can be found here

The Art of Learning at the Art of Marketing.

Image of Wine Library TV's Gary Vaynerchuk.

Image via Wikipedia

Something that keeps coming up in consumer research is what we call, “The State of O”. Overworked. Overtired. Overburdened. Over-connected. There’s a lot going on in our lives and it feels like we can’t jam anything else into our busy schedules.

But we have to.

If we don’t occasionally step back, take a breath and actually think about things, we run the risk of being almost exclusively reactive. That’s not good for our brands, our companies, or our careers. That’s what I love about the Art of Marketing. (Full disclosure: I’m hosting Monday’s event in Toronto). It gives smart professionals a chance to hear from some of the industry’s most forward thinking individuals.

This time, you’ll hear from:

Guy Kawasaki
Jeffrey Hayzlett
Gary Vaynerchuk
Dr. Sheena Iyengar
Avinash Kaushik

I’ve shared the stage with Gary and Avinash before and they’re both incredibly gifted speakers. I’m really looking forward to meeting and hearing the rest. I have 3 tickets to give away to Monday’s event. Here’s all you have to do:

Place a comment below. I’ll get someone else to pick random numbers and give those individual the tickets. Contest ends at 4pm today.

Bands and Brands: Music to my ears


Image by kpishdadi via Flickr

Ever since a group of people climbed a hill to sing, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, people have understood music’s importance to brand communications. Music plays a huge role in connecting people with brands. Simply put, the perfect music choice can make or break a spot. Heck, I’ve even had music that has actually saved a spot with respect to watchability and interest.

In an earlier blog post found here, I talked about how the definition of success for music has changed in the digital age. Well, the process around how we get music for external advertising has changed, too. Here’s why:

Bands are more entrepreneurial. 

10 years ago, if you asked an indie band to use their song in an ad, they’d flip you the bird and tell you to keep walking. They wouldn’t sell out their integrity for a chocolate bar. Or orange juice. Or a car. Well, that all changed with the arrival of 2 things:

1. My Space
2. Feist

With record labels acting only as distributors, bands were forced to market themselves. For that, they turned to My Space. Suddenly, the very people who thought advertising was evil were cultivating relationships, building exposure, communicating upcoming gigs, and talking about their brand. That made them more entrepreneurial and open to corporate partnership discussions.

In 2007, Apple licensed Leslie Feist’s 1, 2, 3, 4 video for an iPod Nano spot. This was huge because she wasn’t just a musician, she was an indie darling. If it was ok for Feist to sell her soul, it was ok for anyone to sell their soul. Especially because it worked. Apple got credibility by partnering with a critically acclaimed musician and Feist got to be introduced to a whole new audience that hadn’t heard her before. Sounds like a win-win to me.

And it was.

1, 2, 3, 4 is still Feist’s most successful single to date. It was nominated for a couple of Grammys. It won a Juno. Time named it the second best song of 2007. Digital sales went from 2,000 before the spot to close to 100,000 after it. Suddenly, success was a good thing.

Clearly, music and commerce can co-exist. In fact, bands are now lining up to have their songs considered for licensing because they know that the exposure from a commercial can be the difference between scraping loose coins together for food and actually earning a living from your craft on a full time basis.

We’re all better for it. The music is better. The content is better. And the commercials are better.

For the record, here are some of my favourite songs featured in commercials. What are yours?

(Full disclosure: I did this one)