Top Ad Music of 2009


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Adtunes presents the Top Ad Music of 2009. Here is our annual list of some memorable ad music from the past year.


10. Disco Shack


A trend we noticed in 2009: Companies shortening their names. For example, the new Jack in the Box logo would prefer you were on a first name basis with "Jack" and not notice the "in the Box" so much. Pizza Hut would like to be known as "The Hut". And RadioShack spent the year running a series of commercials asking you to refer to them as "The Shack".

As part of that campaign, one RadioShack commercial invited you to visit the mythical "Phonelandia" to learn that "The Shack Sells More Phones than the Population of Scandinavia." The song comes courtesy of the Swedish band DiscoCrew with their song Husvagn "Är vi framme snart?" (translation: Caravan "Are we there yet?"). A Swedish band (a group that promises "100% Party") in a Swiss themed ad about the population of Scandinavia? For that Adland gives The Shack an F in geography. Locations aside, we give the ad the nod for using a quirky foreign soundtrack -- the group even returned for a "Holiday in Phonelandia".

Husvagn by DiscoCrew
Download from MySpace

9. Number Nine


Trailers for the animated film 9 feature the progressive rock song "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria. The song even made it onto the 9 movie soundtrack, which suited the band just fine:

We are really pleased about this, as we aren't just a part of something we don’t believe in for the sake of a bigger audience. We are psyched about this movie! We are all fans of Tim Burton, and Shane Acker’s original short entitled “9”, was brilliant, and even Timur Bekmambetov of “Wanted” is a producer on this movie. So obviously we are really proud to be on the trailer.

The song has previously been featured in a TV commercial for Rock Band for the Nintendo Wii and ads for the Versus sports channel.

Welcome Home by Coheed & Cambria
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8. Trim Styles


Creative directors love proposing risqué ad concepts like the one featured in the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle commercial (or the UK version by Wilkinson Sword) -- the surprise is when they actually get approved and make it to air, especially in the U.S. market. The Quattro woman's razor commercial shows, quite literally, how different bushes can be trimmed and styled.

The song from the Quattro TV spot is "I'm Not the Girl" by LMNTL and Angela McCluskey. McCluskey is no stranger to Adtunes -- she provided vocals for "Breathe" by Télépopmusik used in a now famous Mitsubishi commercial. For the "I'm Not the Girl" track produced by LMNTL, McCluskey lends her otherworldly voice, although the singer had some misgivings about the version used in the ad.

Schick offered the song as a free download. As part of that promotion, Schick donated money to the breast cancer charities Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

I'm Not the Girl by LMNTL & Angela McCluskey
Download from Schick

7. Tinker Sell


In the recent holiday ad featuring Santa visiting a Mercedes-Benz factory, a whimsical piano arrangement can be heard. The same piece of music can be heard in recent movie trailers for Disney's Oceans and How to Train Your Dragon. That piano and strings arrangement was not taken from a movie soundtrack (a popular source of trailer music), it is a piece of licensed production music called "Tinker Spell" and comes from the company Extreme Music. We asked Cindy Chao, of Extreme Music, to explain more about their music production library:

Extreme Music provides high quality, high end, well produced music of all genres for use in professional productions of all shapes and sizes and in any and all media. As this music is solely for this purpose, and therefore not released commercially, it is incredibly good value to license in comparison to a chart hit for instance.

The "Tinker Spell" track was created for Extreme Music by composer Stephen Rees. We asked Stephen Rees about the process of writing music for a music library versus composing for a single film or project:

When writing music for a specific project I'll work closely with the director or producer to tailor that music exactly to their production, whereas for library music I'm writing the music before I'm even aware of what the production is. In the case of production music, I think the best music libraries like Extreme maintain a close relationship with their clients. They know the kind of music that clients find most useful in terms of style and structure and then brief composers such as myself of their needs. So when writing production music my job is just to follow that brief. Similarly, when writing music for a specific film, my job is to follow a brief which in that case would come from the director or producer of that film.

Like many versatile library tracks, "Tinker Spell" is not limited to high profile movie trailers and luxury car commercials. It has been used in a wide variety of ads including plastic surgery, men's clothing, candy bars, and cartoons. Thanks to members of the Adtunes Forum, "Tinker Spell" was identified after a long search, which isn't always an easy task when it comes to licensed production music. In this case, composer Rees appreciates the attention: I'm delighted that there are people that have enjoyed my music enough that they have taken the time to find out more about it.

Tinker Spell by Stephen Rees
Listen at Extreme Music

6. Bacardi in Daylight


The best pairing of music with an effective ad concept of the year might be the Bacardi Mojito "Eras" commercial. The TV spot for the world's number one selling rum shows a man traveling back in time in search of a refill by walking through a series of dance halls, each representing a different era of the 20th century. The settings and costumes of the dancers may change, but the signature Bacardi Mojito cocktail stays the same. What really helps the timeless quality of the commercial is the upbeat song heard through out each set piece, "Daylight" by Matt and Kim. The tone of the song may seem an unlikely choice for time traveling through decades worth of clubs, but in the end the Matt and Kim song works well with the ad. (We're not sure how well "Daylight" translated into "Simlish" works as part of The Sims 3 World Adventures video game, however.)

Daylight by Matt & Kim
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5. Go Team Zappos?


Does the song featured in the shoe commercial known as "Step In" sound familiar? Although many have confused the dance pop track as coming from the band The Go! Team, it is actually from a different band. The track from the ad is called "Blacklight Poster Children Theme" by, you guessed it, Blacklight Poster Children.

The Blacklight Poster Children is led by singer Nik Frost and drummer Ray Blanco from the group The Bangkok Five (a band recently featured in a Ford commercial) along with what they call "'special guests' from the influential Southern California indie rock scene". Ray Blanco on how the Blacklight Poster Children project came about:

While writing new tB5 [The Bangkok Five] music, Frost & myself came to the conclusion that we had lots of music that needed to come out that wasnt for tB5, so we started a new project. Less than 3 weeks later, we have written and recorded a new record, started a new band, and have the support from Zappos in all of their new commercials.

The band used guest musicians including guitarist Jet Freedom of The Nymphs. The Blacklight Poster Children is part of the label Authentik Artists, a Los Angeles based "content company" which concentrates on music licensing.

Comparisons to The Go! Team aside, we think the Zappos commercial and song matches well with the shoe retailer's "Powered by Service" campaign.

Blacklight Poster Children Theme by Black Light Poster Children
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4. Prius Harmony


The 2010 Toyota Prius "Harmony" commercial shows the Prius traveling through an animated whimsical landscape, designed to show how the hybrid can commune with nature. The acapella soundtrack for the ad comes courtesy of singer Petra Haden, performing her all-vocal version of "Let Your Love Flow".

Created by Saatchi & Saatchi LA, the 2010 Toyota Prius campaign was given the title: "Harmony Between Man, Nature and Machine." The Prius commercial was one of the most well received commercial campaigns of the past year. (As to how well the actual 2010 Toyota Prius does in the new year, that remains to be seen.)

The Toyota campaign did prove to be a success for performer Petra Haden. She most recently worked as a vocal coach and arranger for the acapella NBC reality show called Sing Off.

Let Your Love Flow by Petra Haden
Download from Toyota

3. Rise of the Phoenix


On last year's Top Ad Music of 2008 list, we pointed out that one of the most critically acclaimed songs of the year, "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., received it's first exposure in a TV commercial.

History is repeating itself this year with another popular song: "1901" by Phoenix. The track by the French alternative rock band became the soundtrack for a series of ads for the 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover SUV.

Titles for the Cadillac commercials featuring "1901" include: "Stills", "Fluid", and "Facets". The Phoenix album cover art even makes a cameo appearance in one Cadillac ad. The SRX campaign was created by ad agency Modernista, which represents a swan song for the agency as their relationship with GM ended this past year.

In this case, Modernista saved it's best Cadillac campaign for it's last. (No more ads with actress Kate Walsh asking if your car turns you on.) In using the track by Phoenix, the ad campaign strikes the right balance between a modern soundtrack with the right high end visuals. This isn't always easy when marketing a luxury car brand. Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars talked about the origin of the song "1901":

It's a song about Paris. Because Paris in 1901 was better than what it is now. Still nice, but 1901 is better. So this is the fantasy about Paris.

The song comes from the band's fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Phoenix, along with the "1901" single and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album, is easily one of the most well received acts of 2009, topping countless "best of" year end music lists. The group also earned their first Grammy nomination for "Best Alternative Album".

1901 by Phoenix
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2. Don't Stop Believing in Glee


The single most popular song of all time is "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. (Well, technically "Don't Stop Believin'" is the "first catalog track in history to achieve online digital sales of more than 2 million units".)

And part of that song's popularity is due in no small part to the Fox show Glee (with a bit of help from Tony Soprano). The Glee cast version of "Don't Stop Believin'" was first featured heavily by Fox in Glee commercials promoting the premiere of the show after American Idol.

TV spots for the new series created a buzz before Glee even aired and represented a big shift in how networks launch a new series. The show about a misfit show choir performing cover songs quickly became popular with both fans and critics, recently earning four Golden Globe nominations.

Considering the Journey cover was so heavily featured in Glee promotions by Fox, did the show help solidify the power ballad as some sort of pop culture touchstone? Even (former) Journey lead singer Steve Perry approved of the Glee version of the iconic song:

I would give it an A. I think they did a good job. A+ is reserved for the original. That's a little shameless promotion, forgive me.

The public seemed to agree, as the Glee cast version of "Don't Stop Believin" was just certified Gold (with over 500,000 digital downloads), along with over 2 million downloads of Glee songs from the show's soundtrack. The Glee soundtrack is another example of television acting as life support to an ailing music industry. If there still is any doubt about the success of the series, look no further than the dominance of the pop music charts: 25 songs from Glee have reached the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009, the highest number by a single act in one year since The Beatles.

Missed the first half of Glee Season 1? It's already available on DVD.

Don't Stop Believin' by Glee cast
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1. Major Tune


The most popular ad song of the year, generating the most discussion on Adtunes, is "Major Tom" by Shiny Toy Guns from the 2010 Lincoln MKZ commercial. The song and commercial represented a unique collaboration between automaker Lincoln, ad agency Team Detroit, music consultants Creative License, and the band Shiny Toy Guns.

For the 2010 Lincoln MKZ commercial, (also known as "Light Speed") the Ford Motor Company commissioned Shiny Toy Guns to record a version of the Peter Schilling 1980s song "Major Tom (Coming Home)". Reflecting the recent trend of musicians working more closely with advertisers, Shiny Toy Guns' new cover was created as an initial part of the Lincoln ad campaign, rather than as an afterthought. Shiny Toy Guns founder and musician, Jeremy Dawson: "[Team] Detroit asked us firstly to make a tiny version of the song that they could turn into a commercial ... then that moved into recreating the entire song from scratch." Shiny Toy Guns manager Jim Welch highlights the advantages of this type of arrangement:

This was so much more exciting to us than just having previously recorded music licensed and then made to fit the visual commercial. By creating the music simultaneously with the visuals in the commercial, I believe that the mood and feel synergized perfectly, making it so much more artistically pleasing and therefore more effective/successful commercial.

The Lincoln MKZ "shooting comet" commercial (with animation by Digital Domain) follows the space theme of several recent Lincoln ads. In addition to that theme, the MKZ spot also continues the Lincoln tradition of using cover songs, which are a popular choice in part because they represent the "something old, something new" sweet spot for advertisers: the marriage of a favorite song with a new rendition. "The Lincoln team was very specific in aligning Lincoln's core values with the idea of bridging catalog music and contemporary artists. It was a collaborative process with agency's creative team headed up by Greg Braun (of Team Detroit). Shiny Toy Guns were chosen out of hundreds of bands based on their body of work," according to Creative License CEO Kevin McKiernan.

The debut of "Major Tom" in the Lincoln ad turned out to be a success for both the car company and Shiny Toy Guns. For Lincoln, the ad gained attention quickly. As McKiernan points out: "It spread like wild fire in the early stages and almost a year later is still gaining traction." Dawson and the band also saw a positive response: "We saw an immediate reaction. It was really surprising to us because we weren't really sure how many people would see the commercial and actually try to figure out who the act was."

Prior to the commercial release of the song, Lincoln purchased a limited number of downloads of "Major Tom" from the band and Universal Music Group in order to offer it as a free download. "They went fast once we hit Twitter [and] Facebook." according to a Ford rep. Following the success of the "Major Tom", the car company commissioned Shiny Toy Guns to cover the Blue Öyster Cult song "Buring For You" for a follow-up 2010 Lincoln MKS commercial. Lincoln is offering a free download of "Burnin' for You" by Shiny Toy Guns for a limited time.

For those that may still question the idea of popular musicians creating music for advertising, invoking the outdated "selling out" cliche, Dawson puts it best:

When our fans see us on television or in a film instead of frowning upon this like we were "selling out" they smile in agreement. When a good friend of yours gets a raise at his job you don't call him and make fun of him and key his car, you instead pat him on the back and buy him a drink. This is the reaction that we get from our fans when they see us working on these sorts of projects.

"Major Tom" is featured on the new Shiny Toy Guns remix album Girls Le Disko.

Major Tom
by Shiny Toy Guns

Download from Amazon