During a trip to Las Vegas last week I saw one of those things that is both initially startling and subsequently blindingly obvious. The Luxor hotel and casino, a massive, shining black pyramid on the Strip (who’d want to stay in such a funerary structure outside someone with an interest in the novels of Ann Rice and was hoping to get lucky?), had on one of the faces of the 350-foot high structure, an Absolut vodka ad. At first it seemed odd that the MGM Mirage people would give up that space for an ad. It sort of seemed a bit tacky. But then I realized where I was.
And it led to the idea: In the future all surfaces will be advertising.
We’ve all seen the, er, cheeky banner ads, and some of us even witnessed the flap over butt-filled billboards in our hometowns. But have any of you actually visited the Web site? It’s for a product called the Washlet manufactured by TOTO (not, I assume, the good-timin’ purveryors of LA-based soft pop from the late 1970s and early 80s), and there’s a good chance that the product, the site, its music, style, and actors are all from the future.
We’ve all heard of Web portals. But can the Web cross the boundaries of time and space? If so, I want the next site I visit to be be Abraham Lincoln’s blog.
Anyway, Washlet. Pillowy new age murmurs in the background as six multi-cultural ambassadors to squeaky clean nether regions first give us the moon and then the start. “It’s called the *Washlet*,” the guy in the center says, and he pronounces the brand name with such mirth, you wonder whether this isn’t some crafty Bob Odenkirk sketch.
So I saw the ad a couple of times last night as I watched the death throes of my beloved Pistons. I thought it was just another clever car commercial that used an outtake from a new album, but apparently it’s much more: VW and Wilco create music and advertising first:
In a new form of music/promotion/communications, the band Wilco’s recently released album Sky Blue Sky is the soundtrack to Volkswagen’s latest TV campaign. This new form of marketing collaboration has the creative forces of Wilco and VW combining to launch both an album and a VW campaign in the same week. The partnership spans multiple commercials and multiple songs, with the first song being “The Thanks I Get.” […] It’s also the first-ever licensing deal for Wilco.
Inevitably, the fans lose their minds arguing about whether or not this constitutes a sellout.
This is perhaps the most succinct snapshot of mainstream American culture in 2007. The Top 12 finalists from American Idol, dressed as hippies and breakdancers, sing a snappy little version of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” in a commercial for—who else?—Ford Motor Co.
Absolutely perfect. This spot has it all. In just 44 seconds, they manage to co-opt and emasculate (at least) three generations of anti-Establishment counterculture: hippies, hip-hop, and indie rock. Welcome to the future! And you thought postmodernism was played out…
This is so wrong. Percolator reprints an email exchange between a record label and Amplifier magazine wherein Joe Joyce, Publisher & Dir. Advertising (!) of Amplifier, comes right out and says, “if you’re never going to advertise with us I can’t justify the cost of covering your releases.”
This might be unfortunately common, but it still breaks the #1 rule of reputable publications: the wall of separation between editorial and advertising.
Pot/kettle disclosure: Here at GLONO, we do not have a separate advertising staff. But we never allow advertisers to influence our content. And since we launched our record label, we’ve placed ads in several publications including Magnet, the Fork, and Chromewaves, none of whom ever reviewed our releases.
The John Densmore issue is one that ought to make people stop and think for a moment before proclaiming the fundamental righteousness of the man for holding out against the Empire, as was reported in an LA Times story by Geoff Boucher. That Densmore is unrelenting in his resistance to allowing The Doors music to be used for ads—despite the fact that the other two remaining breathing members of the band, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, want to increase their income through the sales of the commercial use of the band’s songs—may seem laudable, but is not such a simple matter.
Fundamentally, the music of any band or performer tends to be sold in some way, shape, or form, whether it is a piece of ticket for a concert or in the price of a bottle of beer in a bar where a band is playing. Or it is the price paid via iTunes or at a music retailer (bricks and mortar or otherwise). When you’re listening to music on the radio—even satellite radio, in some instances—you are also hearing the advertisements, which is the price you pay to listen (and if it is satellite, there is a price on top of that price). So while it is seemingly a far, far better thing Densmore does to keep Cadillac from using “Break On Through (to the Other Side)”—which would have made more sense for the carmaker’s campaign, which uses “Break Through” as its tag line, than Zepplin’s “Rock and Roll,” which has nothing to do with breaking through anything (if they wanted to use Zep, then why not “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid”: “She’s cool around town in her aged Cadillac”)—for $14-million, what, really, is the point? When the music was first heard on FM stations, those stations were selling their time to advertisers for everything from Great Shakes to Falstaff (ads for them done, respectively, by The Who and Cream), so is there some sort of purity here? I don’t think so.