Here's a preview of "Shout It Out Loud."
Today's post is from our friend HIM.
There are very few commercials that I enjoy that utilize metal or rock bands. I get a bit priggish and protective when the music of my youth is used to hawk products even if the music is, in fact, a product unto itself. Priest giving mini-vans a mojo injection? Nope. Bon Jovi shilling for DirecTV? Pass. Motley Crue imbuing their brand of cool onto a freakin’ Kia Optima? Please stop. Just. Stop. But the latest burst of metal marketing irked me in a way that feels different:
More power to Applebee’s for trying to spruce up their fading image, shoved as they are into an increasingly dated segment of the restaurant business. To compete with Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday’s and Shamus McCraptastic’s, they had to go out and buy a bunch of wood-fired grills and retrain staff so that they can hand-cut steaks. Beautiful! Go for it! If that puts enough lipstick on the pig to get them through the next earnings cycle, good for them. But the use of that music. It irks me no end. Yes, it is AC/DC. And, yes, it is the nice Johnson-era “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” off of Back in Black (1980). But you wouldn’t know that, would you, unless you were already a fan. And therein lies a problem. The song has nothing to do with the thing being sold, even in the tangential senses that the items Crue and Priest endorsed were attempting to lift musical cache and imbue it onto their products. Instead, it fills up auditory space behind a bunch of “go for broke” images of steaks being grilled. Compare that to another ad that I loathed, even as it made sense. In 2014, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. used Dio’s “Go Eat Your Heart Out.” Yeah, that’s Dio—well, his estate—giving us two horns up while supporting an artery-clogging slab of pre-formed death. But it works on at least a couple of levels. You can also compare it to a band who simply recognized that they could make some scratch while making a bit of fun of themselves at the same time:
In my humble opinion, that is one of the best uses of a metal band I have seen in a commercial. Cheesy. Overly (and ironically) serious. Money exchanged hands. Norton sold some product. Perhaps a few people figured out that was only half of the original Dokken (that is fodder for another post). But it was just self-aware enough to work on a fan level and just ‘meta’ enough to work for people who don’t give a squat who Dokken were or are. I don’t bemoan a band using their art to make money. I really don’t. I just wish that there was some thought regarding said use. I also recognize that I should make a distinction. Lending one’s services to the sale of another’s product is different from selling products in your own name. But they are both about branding. And when promotion of both sorts get out of hand—the Bret Michaels approach or the KISS method, for just two instances—it cheapen the artist and the product, whether it is theirs or another’s. Sadly, even those with an impeccable enough reputation are guilty of branding themselves into a corner. More and more, Lemmy allowed his band’s imagery to be slapped on every conceivable item of which you can think. But he was also cool enough to lend his image to an ad campaign for milk of all things:
That the ad became a tribute is a sad reality. That Lemmy was self-aware enough to recognize that he fit the thesis of Valio’s overall message (itself an update of a much older ad) is genius on his part. Clearly, someone at ad agency Barkley of Kansas City loves them some AC/DC. Good for them. Equally clear is that this commercial is an attempt to make Applebee’s look a bit . . . edgier? Hmm. While I agree with the song they used, I have my doubts that wood smoke and dead cows are going to be enough to lead more people back to the trough.