One of the new Christmastime ads on TV is by Honda and it features the song “Holiday” by Vampire Weekend. If you live in the real world you may not be aware of the emotional convulsions being displayed by hipsters over Vampire Weekend’s “sellout”. Both Honda and Vampire Weekend are now guilty of mass marketing schlock instead of the preservation of their art. Alice Cooper joined saying that the Paul Simon sound-alikes have no balls.
Funny that we never heard that same vitriol pointed at bands like The Kaiser Chiefs, Yael Naim, Orba Squara, Feist, Bob Dylan, and scores of others who sold out to Apple Computer for their ads. Selling cars and selling tech products destined for the landfill in 3 years are the same thing. You have to grab the audience’s attention, then present the good being sold.
There is one little band I left out of that list that is the most interesting of all: The Beatles. For decades companies have tried to use Beatles’ identities and music, but were unable to in most cases. In those rare use cases it was usually a cover version of a Beatles song by another band.
So it’s 2010 and along comes Apple, the computer company. A month ago they announced that it had finally joined other music outlets and reached an agreement to carry the Beatles’ music, The response from the public: meh. More importantly, though, this deal allowed iTunes to use select Beatles songs in advertising. The Beatles’ original versions of “Revolution” and “All You Needs is Love” are currently running from the ad campaign, and they raise an important question in advertising: is Apple trying to sell The Beatles’ music or is Apple using The Beatles to sell Apple Computer products? The commercial doesn’t parade around the iTunes brand so much as it just shows stills of the band in an attempt to draw in the viewer for the climactic logo splash.
Yeaaahhhh…about that logo splashhhh. First the iTunes logo appears, then the Apple Computer logo for, get this, an equal amount of time. It appears the boys in The Beatles’ legal department got duped. Original music and photos by the band are going used to sell Apple’s products, just like Honda is doing with Vampire. Well..OK, the Apple Computer ad doesn’t show their hardware product for the full 30 seconds, however it is the same exact mechanism of distract and present.
Why all this talk about Apple Computer? Apple seems to be doing some more of their blur marketing at a deeper level than it appears. At Apple Computer press announcements Steve Jobs has wonderfully blurred the truth about the popularity of his operating system and his products while ignoring his flops (notice how you never hear about Apple TV sales figures?). Why should we expect more honesty from his ad campaigns?
The Beatles’ place in history is well understood, and the millions of copies of their 45s, albums, and CDs out there are kept and loved by many. When young and old fans reach for these physical media, what record label is prominently displayed? That’s right, Apple Records. It may have been a coincidence, originally, that the computer company had the same name as the record company (and that record company sued the computer maker over that name and lost many years ago). However the line between the most popular band in history, their label, and a computer company with the same name is more blurred than ever in the consumer’s eyes. That young person discovering his parents’ and grandparents’ music is quite likely to think of a computer company when loading up an album now.
So what we’ve seen here is a clever little takeover of a brand. When you think Beatles, you are supposed to think Apple, the computer company. It’s a clever manipulation of a brand, The Beatles, that is going unnoticed. Meanwhile Vampire Weekend, a band that has only sold a few million albums, is being tied to the stake for a classic hipster execution. If only the vampires could have been so clever.