Advertising is one of the outstanding features of the Post-Modern era - we are bombarded with adverts of all forms and styles. Most are formulaic, rhetorical devices crammed in to a minute, a product presented as a beacon of hope in the face of relatable adversity. That said, every now and again there is an advert that I love, something that stays with me, for emotional reasons, nostalgia…The adverts that stand out most for me are those that use good music. There are some songs you just can’t separate from the advert (mostly John Lewis Christmas adverts). The mutual relationship is clear. Music is crucial to advertising, but a song can be propelled to chart popularity through its inclusion in an advert. In the Netflix era, adverts on TV are no longer what they used to be, but over the last 15 years, there have been some captivating examples.

Sony Bravia (2005) – Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez 


Fourteen years ago, 250,000 coloured balls were released in San Francisco and captured in real time for the Sony Bravia advert, advertising ‘colour like no other’. It is a mesmerizing watch, as they contrast a tranquil blue sky in an everyday, suburban setting. To compliment this, Jose Gonzalez’s version of Heartbeats, originally by The Knife, plays. It is worlds away from the original, a rhythmic, acoustic guitar accompanies a gentle vocal, as opposed to blaring synths, emphasising the simplistic, yet poetic lyrics. Unusually, the advert spans the length of the entire track, facilitating a full appreciation of it, including the break in regularity for the bridge, which is where the song lulls to feel like a relaxing sigh. It is a repetitive three minutes, but the visuals with the song creates an overall sensation of calm and clarity, reflecting the ‘colour’ purpose. It is a surprising choice of song to show colour, as the punchy original may appear more ‘colourful’, yet Gonzalez’s version is the perfect song to wind down to. Despite this, the combination works effortlessly. 

Nikon (2010) – Welcome Home -  Radical Face 


I have so many memories of this advert, which shows a series of life events, all captured on the Nikon camera. The scenes vary, from children, travel, a wedding and bizarrely, Robbie Williams’ concert, who even got an elongated section in a separate Nikon advert. These scenes play out to Radical Face’s Welcome Home, which is as nostalgic as the name suggests. This has come to be one of my favourite songs of all time, first hearing it on the advert itself. It begins with a wind chime, the verse slowly building up to the euphoric crescendo of the chorus, where simply the title is sung, but the instrumentation heightens it to a significant moment. The music of Radical Face evokes a cinematic feel, fully appropriate for advertising a camera. It feels wholly personal, embodying the nature of personal photography, as our lives are documented through the pictures we take.

John Lewis (2012) – Never Tear Us Apart - Paloma Faith 


Wading through years of John Lewis Christmas adverts, this celebration of their sales record in 2012 often goes forgotten. In contrast to their usual animated animals and cereal box families, this approach is completely different. The screen is split in half, one from the 20s, the other modern, as the relationship between a couple is followed through. It functions as a short film, a concept that should feel stilted as the two worlds collide, yet works artistically with a clear sense of narrative. To accompany, Paloma Faith covers INXS’ Never Tear us Apart, retaining the dramatic instrumentation of the original, appropriate for both the 20s feel (the ‘big-band jazz’) and the modern. The fusing of the two eras works to demonstrate John Lewis’ consistency, as it advertises them ‘never having undersold’, the two lovers facing the difficulties that prevail in relationships of both eras, the essence of a relationship the same, invulnerable to change. The focus is not on a product, allowing for an unrestricted creative approach, the music appropriately dramatic, yet simplistic in its lyrics, allowing it to relate to both eras, without the inconsistencies of time.

Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium (2014) - Jungle - Emma Louise

YSL Beauty/YouTube

Amongst the most controversial of adverts, perfume adverts tend to overtly sexualise the subject. Yves Saint Laurent seem to branch away from this to some extent with this advert, a trend that has thankfully followed through in recent years. What stands out in the advert is how well it is shot, landscaping Shanghai at night, the lights and colours vibrant against the predominantly black clothing, furniture and makeup, reflecting the darkness of the brand under Hedi Slimane. It is fast paced, complementing the heavy beat of the song, Emma Louise’s voice low to begin with, as Edie Campbell runs through the streets, before gliding to high notes as she recovers her stolen perfume. The song is hypnotic, the settings almost optical illusions, as she runs through a seemingly infinite tunnel. The director’s cut is even better – episodic and fleeting, it captures the fast-paced urban jungle of Shanghai.

Samsung (2018) - Always On My Mind - Ane Brun

Samsung UK/YouTube

Restraining myself to only one Christmas advert, this years’ Samsung advert was my choice. In comparison to most Christmas adverts, it is somewhat understated and controlled, showing a diverse range of people at different life stages, who are geographically separated from their relatives. While it is not overtly festive, it embodies the essence of coming together for the holidays, facilitated by the Samsung technology, central to the advert. As the people volunteer, work and travel over the period, they are reconnected. The song, that has been covered numerous times, notably by Elvis Presley, details neglect, which becomes wholly relevant to the modern day, as we prioritize our own lives and often forget to contact those who are not in our direct life paths. Ane Brun’s vocals are haunting and delicate, echoing over a simple acoustic guitar, heightened by strings in the second verse.

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