While my guitar gently weeps: Lowly retailer uses the Beatles’ “Help” in ads.

August 31, 2011


God forbid, a jingle…

When I first heard the opening strains to the Beatles’ iconic song “Help” coming out of the car radio I thought: Cool, the inane radio station my kids listen to is finally playing something worthwhile. I nearly spit my Rockstar energy drink when a voiceover started babbling about home electronics on sale for Labor Day.

Unbelievably, It was a spot for hhgregg, an appliance and home electronics store. I’ve never even heard of them but apparently they’re a southern retailer making inroads up north. One look at their website and you find a hard core retailer in the realm of Best Buy or the recently defunct Circuit City. Their theme line: “We Help.” Ugh. Ironically, Circuit City had an identical mantra. It didn’t help them any.


Can you say “I buried Paul?”

As I immediately Tweeted and put on Facebook: How in God’s name can a hokey retailer get the rights to the Beatles’ “Help” for their crappy commercial? A first responder adroitly replied: They can’t. A cease and desist is imminent.

Indeed. There is NO WAY this is a legitimate usage of the Beatles catalog. After all, it took iTunes until last year just to get the rights to offer Beatles music for sale to consumers. With all do respect, Apple has a lot more credibility and money than hhgregg. A LOT MORE. But even if it were Apple, I’d be bummed.

I know not much is sacred in Adland, particularly when it comes to using popular music in modern marketing. But the Beatles? I don’t know what to say: Too soon? Not ever. That it was done in such a lame commercial makes the whole thing even more mind-boggling.

So what gives? I agree with my Friend on Facebook. This smacks of a sleazy attempt for some nobody-retailer to suddenly get noticed. By the time the lawyers force them to yank the campaign they will have achieved their awareness strategy. I’ve often wondered if stunts like this were legal. It’s certainly the way popular culture is going. Yet even if somehow the store acquired the rights to this music (naked photos of Paul McCartney?) it was still wrong. Way wrong.

7 Responses to “While my guitar gently weeps: Lowly retailer uses the Beatles’ “Help” in ads.”

  1. Shocked to hear an adman say something is off limits….guess everything has a price, even if it is a fine.

    • SRP said

      Christine-
      So many things wrong here. First, I believe the advertiser pirated this tune as a stunt. Second, the work is ugly. Third, the Beatles deserve better. John Lennon is spinning in his grave…

  2. SRP said

    And then there’s this. http://www.adpulp.com/willie-nelson-covers-coldplay-for-chipotle/ But then Coldplay ain’t the Beatles…

  3. Why so angry? said

    I’d like to make a few corrections to your angry and misleading post.

    1) hhgregg is not a “southern” retailer. hhgregg started in Indiana and maintains its corporate headquarters there. Indiana is a northern state. It’s well above the Mason-Dixon line if that’s your reference. Get a map.

    2) hhgregg purchased full license rights from Sony/ATV Music Publishing to use the song “Help”. I’m not sure how you can spread a rumor that a cease and desist is imminent. Where’s your source? What? That’s right, you don’t have one because this isn’t true.

    3) hhgregg is no Circuit City. They have completely different retail business models. I’m not sure how you can equate the two in advertising models either. After all your current employer, Euro RSCG, lists Blockbuster as a client. Do you want to discuss their business success relating to advertising?

    Overall I’m not sure why you’re so angry. GM, Sears (a former/current client of yours), NIKE and other have used Beatles’ songs in ads. They use them because it’s effective advertising.

    • SRP said

      You’re right about the post being angry but it’s not misleading. I never claimed a “source” for cease and desist comment. I said it came from a “first responder on Facebook.” Go on my account. You’ll see it there. You’re also right about Indiana not being in the South. No defense. I’d never heard of the store and read that the campaign broke in Florida. I drew a conclusion. I stand corrected. Finally, you’re absolutely right about other advertisers using Beatles music. I am remiss here. It’s just this example was so damn lame! While I don’t work at Euro anymore I do remember Blockbuster. We knew they were dying, so we tried to put them on life support. Bought ‘em a year.

  4. There’s a lot of music in the ad industry. A lot of us worked in the ad industry for many years. Even though we know music gets bought and sold for commericals, there are some pieces that make more sense than others. Some music, like the Beatles, just seems so “non-commerical” that we are surprised to find them sold for just that. I think that is what many people are feeling. It is especially shocking to hear pieces of music in ads when the artist is deceased and/or the music was never released commercially before their death. I love the Beatles and find it funny that they didn’t own a great deal of their music. Same with Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

  5. [...] dirty agency who makes nothing but. Why should they, when advertisers can buy sacred cows like the Beatles' Help for the price of [...]

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