“This next tune is about a jeep…”

The X Ambassadors are an alternative rock band from Ithaca New York. Signed on the Interscope label, the band has toured with the likes Imagine Dragons and Jimmie Eat World. They’ve put out two records.

The only reason I know any of this is because I looked the X Ambassadors up on Wikipedia. Why did I do that? Call it intellectual curiosity. The band is featured in a new jeep commercial, for their Renegade model. Here’s the log line for the commercial, from site ispot.tv:

“The X Ambassadors load up for their tour and take on the road in the 2015 Jeep Renegade. The car has plenty of room for their gear, a bit of guitar practice, writing new songs and general road trip shenanigans. Watch as the alternative rock band members explore the country as they make their way to their show in Portland, Oregon.”

“Road trip shenanigans…” And they all end up in Oregon. How precious is that? But seriously, when I first saw this commercial, I wasn’t even sure if the band was real. I assumed so yet the lyrics to the song, which drives the commercial, seemed to be written exactly for Jeep Renegade. The tune is even called, Renegades. Here is what they used in the spot:

Long live the pioneer
Rebels and …
Go forth and have no fear
Come close and lend an ear

Living like we’re renegades.



Forget that Levis did this commercial way better, using Walt Whitman’s Pioneers! O Pioneers! My second reaction, however, is why I’m writing about it at all. That’s because I thought the client and its ad agency had either written a song or contracted a band to compose one specifically for the product; in other words, a jingle.

Horrors! O Horrors! I know calling this piece of music a jingle is perhaps harsh. But not when you consider how neatly the lyrics and pictures sync up. Or that vignettes of the band’s “shenanigans” fit Jeep’s aspirations of marrying hipster culture and the great outdoors to a “T.” Or that this somewhat motley crew ends up in Portland. Well, it’s all too damn perfect.

And that’s the problem with this commercial. Despite every effort made to not look contrived it hopelessly is. In the end these so-called renegades come off as trust fund kids taking a free ride in the cool ride dad got one of ‘em for graduation.

Go Forth, for Levis. If you’re going to take someone else’s words steal from the best!

Sing along with Squidward!

Like macaroni my children love jingles, the cheesier the better. Local or regional dreck, for goods and services they will never use. Never the less, when one comes on the TV or radio the girls start singing along as if it were a Katy Perry song. Sometimes I join in, God help me.

Have you heard the one for Gerber Collision & Glass? A guy who sounds like Squidward (from the Spongebob Squarepants cartoon) sings, “Driving in my car, beep, beep, obeying the law sure is neat, hope no one wrecks into me!” Some more inane lyrics followed by the melodious name of the company. Finally a voiceover says, “We come highly wreck-ommended.” My kids like the pun as much as the song, probably because they are both so wonderfully awful.

And then there’s those Jewel vegetables crooning a bad disco song: “We’re Fresh! Exciting!” On the radio we don’t know it’s the produce singing. Either way, they love it. Too bad they hate vegetables but that’s another story.

If you can endure the horrible slice of life for Luna Carpets, the end jingle is a huge hit at the Postaer household. My kids sing the phone numbers and everything. It has replaced Empire Carpets on our set list.

While jingles haven’t been hip in a coons’ age (much like that expression), they have never been less in than now. Nobody but nobody in Adland writes jingles anymore unless 1) they want to be fired or 2) they work for a down and dirty agency who makes nothing but. Why should they, when advertisers can buy sacred cows like the Beatles\' Help for the price of hamburger?

In a weird way I find the spectacle endearing. Little girls mimicking ultra-lame commercials is a joy of parenthood! It has a kind of throwback vibe. Lord knows when I was a kid I loved me some jingles. “Two all beef patties, special sauce…” Come on sing along, you know the words.

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.

Sorry son, only the tagline lives on…

This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. The line has become a pop culture catch phrase, in the same ilk (albeit attached to worse advertising) as “Got Milk?” Try reading your morning paper and not finding a variation on it. For example, about a candidate: “This is not your father’s Democrat.” About a technological innovation: “This is not your mother’s sewing machine.” And so on. Sadly enough, more Americans are familiar with the Olds’ slogan than they are of Shakespeare’s finest sonnets. Way more.

As I remember it, a soft-spoken creative director at Leo Burnett by the name of Joel Machak wrote that famous line. Yours truly actually came up with the campaign’s tag: “The New Generation of Olds.” Both pieces were intended as lyrics. That’s right, a jingle! As a matter of fact, I was brought in (just a kid at the time) to help Joel come up with the refrain. The piece went together as follows (sing along): This is not your father’s Oldsmobile…This is the new generation of Olds.

Given it’s continued popularity I decided to write a piece about it, in 2008. Since then the story continues to provoke readers to comment on the campaign. The debate mainly revolves around who actually penned the line, including a recent missive from then creative director, Don Gwaltney. (Hi Don!)

Before I go on, let me state that all the posted arguments are more than less valid. Don Gwaltney. Ted Bell. Jim Ferguson. David Caldwell. Joel Machak. Me. We were all in the proverbial room when said campaign got said. Have a look at the string and catch up on your ad history: My post, 2008

What’s ironic is that when this campaign was in its heyday most of us were not particularly proud of it. We knew it was catchy but we also realized it was damn silly. As the commercials caught on I remember feeling pretty foolish about what I’d created. It wasn’t until years later I actually put a couple of the spots on my reel and even then I did so with trepidation. To my recollection the campaign never won a single creative award. A few years later Oldsmobile went out of business. The adline proved true to a fault. This was not your father’s Oldsmobile. Dad’s Oldsmobile was good. These cars were mediocre and overpriced.

Be that as it may, the campaign became a part of advertising history –even American history. And people want their props.

With equal parts embarrassment and pride, I give you one of the first commercials, which I wrote, for “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.”

Bill Shatner & Daughter \"Space Age!\"

Do you feel it?

Once again, this morning I had the privilege of riding my bike to work along Chicago’s glorious lakefront. Temperature in the high 60’s, not a cloud in the sky, and the wind at my back, I could not have asked for a better day -not just to ride in but to be alive. The moment was especially poignant given how few such days likely remain for us in the Windy City. Winter looms with its sub-zero temps and interminable gray skies.

But not today! This morning rocked.

Speaking of rock, I want to write about another key ingredient embellishing my morning commute: music. This morning a pod of classic Yes songs enhanced my ride on the sparkling lakefront. For those unawares, Yes was (and still kind of is) a signature prog-rock band from the 70’s. You would know them from their signature hits, “I’ve seen all Good People” and “Roundabout.” But if you were a pot smoking, nerdy white kid you knew their catalogue far more intimately.


While listening to Yes’s \"Siberian Khatru\" I had a vivid recollection of a moment in time: a Saturday morning at my best friend’s college apartment in Madison, Wisconsin. I see the sun streaming in through dusty windows. I feel the scintillating buzz from Cooper’s ubiquitous stash of Hawaiian Sinsemilla. I hear the crackling pops of a diamond needle on vinyl registering over Coop’s exquisite Pioneer stereo…The memory in indelible; I have it every time I listen to Yes.

That got me thinking about other such music-induced memories and how vivid they can be. For instance, I cannot listen to U2’s popular 2004 release, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” without thinking of the week I spent in Helsinki pitching the Nokia business. We were staying at a small hotel and, as I am a runner, the concierge directed me to a public gymnasium nearby. (That far north the nights lasted forever and so it was too dark to run outside.) Thus I remember jogging on a treadmill in an empty and darkened gym in Helsinki and listening to U2’s new album. I do not fully understand the correlation between that record and that location but I do know I cannot separate the two.

Likewise, whenever I hear Boston’s symphonic “More than a Feeling” I am immediately transported back in time to the now-defunct Rainbo ice-skating arena in Chicago. It was there I kissed my first girl, a curly-haired blond named Kathy. Saturday night comprised skating around in circles, more or less to the din of top 40 over the arena’s faulty sound system. Occasionally, they’d dim the lights for a ‘couples skate’…I close my eyes and I slipped away… Can’t you hear it? I can.

Author’s note: “Crazy on You” by Heart also takes me here…and to second base!

Advertisers have long known music’s magical power, which is why music is such a critical part of so many campaigns. For better or worse, if a tune transports someone to a brand and makes an indelible connection that’s kismet: whenever we hear the music we feel the brand. I’ve written about music and marketing before, in particular the love/hate relationship we have with jingles..

Let’s have some fun. Is there a piece of music that takes you to a specific time and place? I told you three of mine. Can you share some of yours?