Well, it’s happening again, not that it ever stopped. Lately, there has been a rash of commercials using boomer music in them. Even locally, an area hospital is using Brenda Lee’s version of Baby Face (1959) to advertise their pediatric surgery department, and a regional supermarket chain has enlisted Roy Orbison’s You Got It (1989). Mister Boomer still isn’t sure how he feels about this particular form of cultural appropriation, and has written about this before (see Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma and Boomer Music: Here, There and Everywhere).
Yet with this latest batch, Mister B has to wonder … wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder. Why. Wha-wha-wha-wha-why? It seems plausible that commercials are now written by Gen Xers and Millennials for Gen Xers and Millennials, yet they choose to use boomer music rather than tunes from their own eras. This latest batch though, has a new out-of-the-ordinary twist in that the pairings of song to product seems to lean to more than a little bizarre. Take a look at some recent song usage that Mister B has seen in his area:
Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf (1968)
Was the song used for motorcycle insurance? Hair curl control? Or maybe … nope. How about Pampers diapers for babies? Now Fire all of your guns at once/ And explode into space has a whole new meaning.
Summertime, The Jamies (1958, re-released in 1962)
Mister B has to admit that McDonald’s has employed this summery ditty in a fun way. Pointing out the challenges of summer such as sunburn and bug bites, the commercial offers a McDonald’s meal as an something easy for summer, all to the strains of Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime …
Summer In the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
The ironic twist in this BMW car commercial is that the song says summer in the city, but the people driving are in the great expanse of the southwest. Try getting your neck burnt and gritty in a modern air-conditioned car.
To Love Somebody, The Bee Gees (1967)
Another odd paring, The Bee Gees are singing out for Facebook Groups. Yup, the venerable social media giant is advertising on TV, and using a Bee Gees tune to do it. The commercial tugs at the heartstrings, showing a father/daughter group heading to a baseball game. Mister B has to wonder whether the idea was generated by one of Facebook’s artificial intelligence engines.
I Think We’re Alone Now, Tommy James and the Shondells (1967)
HP computers is using the Tommy James tune with a nudge and a wink-wink. The crux of the commercial is a new feature on the computer that locks out the camera, barring any possible hacking. The premise is, this lock out is so no one will see you when you are doing the eccentric things you do when no one is looking — like toe nail clipping or posing in front of a mirror. Tommy James, however, isn’t singing about that at all.
This begs the question of why stop there? Certainly more strange pairings are ripe for the taking. Mister Boomer has some advice for companies looking to utilize boomer music:
• Hey Viagara and Cialis, ever think about acquiring Eight Days a Week by the Beatles (1964)? Can’t get the rights? There is always Me and My Arrow by Harry Nilsson (1970).
• Bathfitters, you are aiming your product primarily at homeowner boomers, so how about appropriating a song boomers have misheard for years anyway? Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising (1969) has been heard by millions to be, There’s a bathroom on the right. Throw enough money into it and maybe you can get John Fogerty to do a cameo.
• Is Robert Wagner still hawking reverse mortgages? Drop in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Our House (1970) for a lead-in and fade-out for that instant boomer connection. Not to your liking? How about Barry Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) from 1959?
What songs have you heard in commercials lately, boomers? Any suggestions of likely or unlikely pairings you’d like to add?
3 thoughts on “Boomers Watch the Commercial Beat Go On”
I haven’t seen Robert Wagner hawking mortgages, I have seen Tom Selleck hawking them; like with Fred Dalton Thompson, I’ve changed the channel rather than listen to either of them.
Once in a while the mad men of today use millennial music in ads. In 2003 ‘Stacy’s mom’ had it going on in a video which featured an adolescent young man infatuated with his girlfriend’s single mom. Ten years after, in 2013 Cadillac, (which in the madmen days of the 1960’s only advertised in print media), further changed the world by featuring the song in a TV commercial.
I for one could never figure out why “There’s a bad moon on the rise” was ever misheard as “There’s a bathroom on the right”. After all the song is titled BAD MOON RISING!!! Also I’ve never seen Robert Wagner hawking reverse mortgages. I have, however been known to change the channel when Fred Dalton Thompson and lately Tom Selleck are hawking them.
I think that boomer music is used to sell stuff because boomers are in some sense still the target audience. Millenials are saddled with too much student loan debt…and they are not as quick to part with a buck as are boomers. Millenials don’t buy things, they buy experiences.
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