Songs in TV ads

A quick memory test for you now, as well as a chance to have a good old moan about, amongst other things, there being far too many (infuriatingly loud) adverts on TV, some of which are, admittedly, often better than the actual programmes.

First, the promo video for the song that topped the UK singles chart on this day in 1994 – from a Levi’s commercial. Remember it?

Any and all thoughts related to the use of music in marketing are welcome, although I’d particularly like examples of what you consider to be the most, and least, effective uses of popular music in television commercials.

Have any musicians been brought to your attention in this way, which songs were you appalled to hear being used to promote something quite likely felt to be inappropriate, and which have genuinely helped make the most memorable ads so?

Roy Orbison’s ‘Only the Lonely’ springs to mind, as does the Rolling Stones number, ‘She’s a Rainbow’… twice. Both songs were used in international ad campaigns. Do you recall by whom or what was being advertised?

Be sure to include your own deliberately vague recollections to similarly puzzle and irritate your fellow reader, and do also include classical pieces, so many of which have become well-known thanks to their use on TV. (I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking of a certain brand of engine oil whenever I hear Mahler’s Seventh.)

The best use of music in an advert that’s running at the moment? The Co-operative one featuring Bob Dylan’s timeless ‘Blowin’ In the Wind’, of course.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

73 thoughts on “Songs in TV ads”

  1. How about British Airways’ use of Delibe’s Flower Duet, which happens to be my favorite Opera?


    P.S. How are you doing FEd? I haven’t chatted with you in such a long time. Do have a lovely weekend.

    1. You have the same, Penny. (Is it just me, or are weekends coming around quickly?)

      A beautiful piece, that.

  2. To tell you the truth, I’ve never understood why this practice is considered to be such a big ‘Faux Pas’ by many. If it was me, I’d be more than happy to accept compensation for my hard work from whatever source available.

    To decline in the name or ‘Art’… HAHA… give me a break! What we all do, whatever it is, we do for survival… and that means producing a product that will rake in the dough.

    I don’t think I’ve ever purchased anything because I liked the ad song, and I’d be very surprised if anyone else does. You either need it or you don’t, and if I don’t need it, Beethoven’s 9th playing in the background won’t make me run out to buy it.

    On the other hand, I have the utmost respect for firms that create their own jingles, such as a very popular fast food giant specializing in hamburgers. Love ’em or hate ’em, you have to respect them for that practice. You know the one: “I’m lovin’ it…”

    Wouldn’t Led Zep’s ‘The Lemon Song’ be perfect for a Via**a ad (aired at 3 A.M.)? If it were me, I’d be proud to let them use it… and happily accept their money!

  3. There was an ad for, I think, Nike sneakers that showed people running in the sneakers while The Beatles’ “Revolution” played. What was that? The connection surely isn’t obvious.

    Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” in a cosmetics commercial makes sense. Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in a Cadillac commercial made less sense — using hard rock to sell to stodgy old-timers — until you realized that they were trying to sell to a different audience.

    Don McLean’s “American Pie” was in a commercial a few years ago, but I don’t have any idea what it was for. Real effective, huh? And Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Rollin’ on the River” was in a local commercial for a radio station (with white letters on a black background: “Boinin? Toin it to 99.5 The River.”)

    I was horrified when the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th were used in a commercial: “Nine ninety-nine, Nine ninety-nine.” Yeah, I remember the price, but what was the product? For them, it’s a good thing I can’t remember — because I would definitely NOT buy anything from people who would desecrate such wonderful music to sell something.

    And on a related topic, I once heard an R.E.M. song “South Central Rain” turned into muzak at the supermarket! YUCK!!

    1. I was horrified when the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th were used in a commercial: “Nine ninety-nine, Nine ninety-nine.”

      :)) Oh dear.

  4. What about those M&S food ads, with Classic Fletwood Mac?

    This isn’t just Albatross this is M&S Albatross!

  5. Hi FEd, my comment today is off-topic, I’m sorry.

    Last night I went to see a concert in a small theatre, there was Tommy Emmanuel playing, amazing. I spent ten minutes with him and a friend of mine backstage, he’s really friendly and nice. During the gig I tried to imagine David playing with him some songs and that would be simply fantastic.

    Are you a fan of Tommy Emmanuel? In my opinion nobody is better than David with a guitar, but that man seems to come from another planet just like him.

    Thanks for your attention. Have a nice weekend everybody,

    1. Lucky you, Tommy Emmanuel is unbelievable. Watching him play is mesmerising, isn’t it? I’m glad that he did not disappoint.

  6. Very nice topic. 🙂

    I don’t know about Roy Orbison’s song, but “She’s a Rainbow” has been used in a TV advert I like very much, the Sony Bravia one.

    Here it is.

    Another advert I have in my mind now is the Martini one. The song is Roxy Music’s “More Than This”. I don’t know if it’s an international advert, but here it’s very famous.

    1. :)) Lorraine, that’s hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

      I cringe watching that Victoria’s Secret ad, I have to admit. (Sorry, Bob.)

  7. How about the Greggs advert using ‘Maybe Tomorrow’?

    I think some of the classic ones were the Hovis adverts using Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

    Can you tell it’s lunchtime here and I feel like a sandwich? 😛

    1. How about the Greggs advert using ‘Maybe Tomorrow’?

      Love that tune (although you can’t beat the original). Love their Mexican Chicken seeded rolls, too.

  8. Hi FED,

    I well remember the TV ad for BT using the P.F./Steven Hawking spoken words from the Division Bell track Keep Talking. I can’t really remember anything about the ad, maybe someone can help me.

    I’m not imagining this am I? It would have been 1994.


    1. You’re not imagining it, Steve: here it is.

      “Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking.” So true.

      Makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, doesn’t it? What an inspirational man and a deeply meaningful, moving advert.

      Thanks for mentioning it.

  9. She’s a Rainbow… can’t think what it was advertising but enjoyed the advert cos, from memory, it was bright, colourful and a cartoon… I think. 😀

    The only time I actively sought out an advert to find out who sung it was…

    Devendra Banhart – Little Yellow Spider

    “Hey there, little snapping turtle, snapping at a shell
    Ah, there’s mysteries inside, I know
    But what they are I just can’t tell for sure”

    That was one verse of many. Can’t remember what was being advertised, but loved the song.

    1. Apple also used ‘She’s a Rainbow’ back in the iMac G3 days.

      By the way, is anyone else sick to the back teeth of the iPhone adverts and the words ‘apps’ and ‘funnest’?

    2. Thanks FEd for reminding me of my favourite advert ever, “Think Different” by Apple – here.

      “Here’s to the crazy ones…”

  10. The Who’s “Happy Jack” for the Hummer commercial – makes me smile every time I see it. 🙂

  11. I remember I had some problems a few years ago to find out what the advert music for a (delicious) coffee was, I knew it had some connection to David but couldn’t remember which one. Now I know it was Sam Brown singing ‘Stop’.

    Oh! and now I can’t remember which coffee it was… 😮

    Enjoy your (sunny, I hope) weekend.


    1. What an excellent song.

      I saw Sam perform a few years ago – along with her father, Joe – in a fairly small theatre and she made the place tremble.

    2. Sam Brown’s “Letting Go” is the one of, if not the most devastating songs ever written and performed.

      If you’ve never heard it you owe it to yourself to hunt it down and listen to it. It appears on her marvellous record, “43 Minutes”.

    3. I saw Sam perform a few years ago – along with…

      Ahah… I saw Sam perform a few years ago – along with… David! (Olympia, Paris, 16 March 2006.)

      Even better, no? 😛

    4. I saw Sam perform with PF at the Earls Court concert in ’94, brilliant singer. I was able to tell her so in 1996 when she did a solo concert at “The Stage” in Hanley, as I was doorman to her dressing room that night…

    5. Oh and I saw Sam perform with David in 2002 in Paris (Palais Des Congrès) – such an intimate and moving semi-acoustic concert.

      She was leading a choir. I remember David introducing in French with much affection “ma petite chorale” at the end of High Hopes. Sam and the choir sang a-capella in gospel style for two magical minutes.

      Unforgettable souvenir…

  12. I cannot think of anything in particular at the moment as I am watching Imogen like a hawk today, but, personally, I think a lot of British television advertisments, along with their musical accompaniments, are quiet clever. I think some of them are quite funny too.

    I will ponder on this and get back later on this interesting topic.

  13. Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Mille Lune Mille Onde’ for Barilla pasta!


  14. If I ever went into advertising I would convince Lidl supermarket to use the song “Little by Little” by Dusty Springfield. You can hear it now…

    “Lidl, buy Lidl, buy Lidl, buy Lidl, buy Lidl…”

    This idea is protected by Intentional Copyright by Merc. 8|

  15. Fun topic!

    I always love to hear Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” during the ad break. It really cheers me up.

    I also think the Co-op/Bob Dylan ad is one of the best that’s on at the moment.

  16. Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun” used on an Audi advert – would Jimi be turning in his grave if he knew, I wonder?

    I get wound up when a classic piece of music is used on an advert and the children assume that is the first time its ever been heard.

    I’m on the wind down for our holiday, we are going away for our second wedding anniversary at the week end, it’s gone by so quickly.

  17. It didn’t make me buy the product but I was intrigued enough to find out who the band was and the name of the song.

    In the U.S. there was a commercial for the auto insurance company Geico. Their commercials featuring cavemen was extremely popular. One commercial featured a catchy tune in the background – I believe it was the commercial where the caveman was going through an airport. Anyway the song was “Remind Me” by the band Röyksopp. I believe the band did gain some popularity from using that song. I know that I even downloaded it from iTunes so that I could annoy my kids who didn’t care for the tune.

    That is one of the great things about the internet. You see or hear something and you can search to find more info. Twenty years ago if you heard a song in a commercial, you may have never found out anything about it. Today it is a few clicks and you have data.



  18. 🙂 Hello to all the people who can possibly see this blog and of course to David Gilmour.

    I am from CHILE, South America.

    Just one question (excuse my typing): Why did you never come to South America? So many shows in Europe and USA but never here.

    There are a lot a fans who are waiting for your music. On the stage of Pink Floyd the problem was the cost, but now the whole world comes without problems… there is no possibility of shows on this side of the world?

    We are waiting for a David Gilmour concert and great solos. In 2002 and 2007 Roger came maybe with fears the first time… but Chileans showed the opposite. Give us a chance and if not it is a pleasure to have followed your career and your contribution to the world of music.

    Awaiting your response,

  19. Several friends of mine, one in particular, can’t stand the use of time honored classic rock tracks being used in commercials, as if doing so eternally ruins the meaning of the song for them. Most fans of Pete Townshend’s songs seem to be the most ardent and vocal in their distaste of this practice! A good friend even went so far as to say that Townshend is a hypocrite for changing from spiritual seeker (in his more youthful days) to unabashed materialist for merely licensing Happy Jack to stump for Hummvee sales.

    I rather see it as a means of an artists survival… just another way to make money in this world, and being that the music is proprietary (as much to the person from whom it originated from versus the fan who foolishly thinks its meaning should be kept sacrosanct to that person’s own beliefs) it should be used as the originator sees fit.

    Having said that, my least favorite commercial using an established artist song (and in this case, appearance) is Dylan’s in Victoria Secrets ads. I mean, c’mon… this guy is a pillar of rock aristocracy… commercials, to someone like himself, is almost shameful of his stature (click here).

    On the flip side, I absolutely love the Kink’s song Picture Book as used by HP during a printer ad campaign from several years back (click here). It got me started on the Kinks’ rich musical legacy because of this very same commercial.


    1. Love the HP add with Picture Book.

      Very creative add and the song works well with it.


  20. Of course advertising is more than just selling product in a “foot in the door” sort of way – it’s about building brand awareness, making positive associations in consumers’ minds, getting noticed… and music is of course a jolly good way of doing that.

    Your Stiltskin example is one that sticks in my mind, and many car manufacturers are very good at it too (Renault Clio with a little “Django Jazz” anyone?) and Coke notably with “I’d like to buy the World a Coke” (and give it rotten teeth, presumably).

    Of course we also love the art of the purpose-composed song… who could forget this? (And it worked phenomenally well, by the way.)

    1. There have been some catchy ones. How about this, for example?

      Embarrassingly, I still know all the words (and an extra verse about how you could collect tokens to claim free tumblers, which I never did, but I like to think I helped encourage others to).

  21. I just now remembered that Ella Fitzgerald was in a commercial for Memorex cassette audio tapes in the late 70s. They had her in a recording studio, facing away from the control room, when the sounds of someone singing were piped into the studio. “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” is the question asked of Fitzgerald. “Beats Me!” is the inevitable answer.

    Seemed very strange to have one of the world’s most famous singers in your commercial, but then to use the singing of someone else. Still, it was an effective commercial. I still remember it in detail, some two decades on. This, despite the fact that I was listening to Yes, ELP and Pink Floyd at the time… and I had no clue who Ella Fitzgerald was.

    Do I buy a product because a celebrity appears in its advertising? No. But it must work, or else these companies would never spend so much $$ to make it happen. And that is what depresses me. There are people who buy things they don’t want/need, just because a celebrity tells them to do it. That speaks volumes about people’s lack of self-confidence and absence of independent thought. It’s really easy to let someone else make your decisions for you. Why decide for yourself what kind of car to get, when Led Zeppelin are telling you to “rock and roll” in a Cadillac (as I mentioned in my comments from earlier today)?

  22. I have a split relationship to TV adverts with good songs. Here is the present commercial of one of our biggest DIY stores. Decide for yourself what you think about it.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    1. Marvellous. Looks like the outtakes from the auditions to replace Freddy – and not a mullet in sight.

  23. I thought someone would have come up with this one, before now. (You may need to turn up the volume, as it’s rather quiet.)

    There’s an uncanny resemblance of the statue head with the deceased mother of our future king, don’t you think…?

    1. I looked Ken but my YouTube searching let me down.

      Doesn’t really work but I’m always glad to hear it anyway…

  24. I’m sure I’ve heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in a recent TV advert.

    The only one I found is the BMW one – here – but I can’t remember the images. Maybe the music caught all my attention or maybe there was another one, too.

    Sometimes I like to watch some TV adverts, but it’s often hard for me to recall which products were exactly promoted. It especially happens when the soundtrack is music I like, because I think good music needs good images and if it’s not so, I forget the images.

    Sometimes it’s also irritating to hear a good song or a great classic piece under the images of certain silly adverts.

  25. Thank you so much for that Fed and you are right… what a truly wonderful advert it was using the wonderful sound of P.F. and the amazingly inspirational Stephen Hawkin – and thanks to BT.

    Thank you for your time.


  26. Well hey Fed,

    How are things with you? It has been a while.

    Here in Canada, years ago, I remember a Volvo car ad with John Rutter’s What Sweeter Music as the theme. Though at the time I had no idea who performed it or wrote it. It inspired me to do an extensive search to find out and I did and bought it. So I always thank a car manufacturer for introducing me to John’s marvellous music.

    Here is the link to that Volvo car ad. God bless You Tube. :))

    Cheers, Howard

  27. Fed, what an interesting topic.

    Here is one of my fave singers (besides David of course), Billy Idol, in an Ikea commercial.

  28. Three adverts spring to mind at the moment.

    One of them is ‘Air On A G String’ and the Hamlet advert especially the version with Gregor Fisher and his stringy comb over.

    The Nurofen advert and ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ is good when it shows thunderstorms and then the sun coming out, which is almost in keeping with part of the meaning of the composition of the music.

    And ‘Night On A Bear Mountain’ with the Maxell advert with the chap sitting in a chair with the music blowing his hair.

    If I think of any others I will come back and post later.

  29. I’ve discovered a few artists from ads:

    – Jose Gonzalez on the Sony Bravia ad (here)
    – Cinematic Orchestra on a Schweppes ad
    – Adiemus on a Delta Airlines ad (here)

    And didn’t King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ get used in an ad for tyres?

    1. I always liked that Sony Bravia ad. Nice song.

      I don’t remember the King Crimson one… Anyone?

    2. I’ve seen reference to a Dunlop ad but not found it – they did use “Venus in Furs” so it might be the same vibe – or even be a confusion with that?

      The string on YouTube also asks (here) – and fails to answer!

    3. I don’t remember the tire ad with ’21st Century Schizoid Man,’ but Crimson’s ‘Lark’s Tongue in Aspic’ was used as background music in an adult movie in the late 70s!

    4. If you like Sony Bravia ads, FEd, here is the paint explosions one on Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra”.

      Isn’t it beautiful?

  30. – How about the ‘Royal Canin’ advert, using the beautiful ‘Chi Mai’ by Ennio Morricone (soundtrack from ‘The Professional’, a 1981 movie directed by Georges Lautner)?

    – Maybe (or maybe not) a bit off topic, but does the music used in this documentary – about the magnificent and fascinating world of fractal geometry – sound familiar to anyone? Have a special listen to it from 5:05…

    – And… the best commercial, with the best… ‘music’, this one. :))

    Don’t you just want to slap him? 😛


    1. You beat me too it F’ed… reminds me of my own shopping trips when I’m not allowed chocolate.

      Michèle, surely you would not want to suppress the poor child who is only demonstrating frustration at his inability to articulate his profound desire to participate in this most adult of activities.

      On second thoughts, you’re right, slap him.

  31. Another well thought out advert is Thunderbirds’ Brains body-popping to Snap!’s Rhythm is a Dancer in an ad for Britvic’s Drench spring water.

    Two terrible ones that come to mind are:

    – The “one-one-eight” set to the A Team theme tune.

    – The second advert that I remember when I lived in Texas in the Seventies, the Chef Boy RD advert set to the tune of ‘Oranges and Lemons’.

    However, no matter what song, be it a chart hit or classic, is used in an advertisement, the artiste gets a nice royalty from it. Everybody works you see. It makes the world go round.

  32. He Ain’t Heavy by the Hollies was the only classic I can remember at the moment.

    A little off topic: Duffy went right down in my esteem for the cola add she did. Why?!!!

  33. Time was used in a detergent ad here in the Netherlands (years ago).

    And there are more great tunes (and websites about this).

  34. Anyone else remember The Great Gig In The Sky being used on a Nurofen advert? I guess it was the late 80s. Thinking back, it seems a horrible way to use such a great song, but to be fair, it paved the way for me getting into Pink Floyd when I was a kid watching that ad and loving the music.

  35. Hi FEd,

    Long time no chat or blog. Anywho, I remember the Marlboro cigarette commercial. The music for this ad was from the movie “The Magnificent Seven”.

    I have recently also heard a song played during a PNC Bank commercial. I don’t know who does the music but I liked it (the song, that is).

    I have five stepkids!! (Actually five kittens and a mom cat). They are living under the sun porch. Guess they will be grown up enough to leave soon.

    🙁 I’ll miss ’em. They are too cute!


  36. One planned advert that didn’t come about (as far as I am aware) is this one using the song “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash for a haemorrhoid cream.

  37. …did I miss it, or am I the first one who doesn’t like adverts at all?

    But totally theoretical: I’d like to see an ad using Neil Young’s This Note’s For You (would have to be for something about the environment, though). 😉

    Best regards,

  38. 😀 Yes, whenever I hear: Like a Rolling Stone is the head of a Coca-Cola commercial which was to air here in Brazil.

  39. Somebody please, please tell me the name and artist of the song played on the NEXT TV ad.

  40. I’m of the view that the most exciting thing on TV are commercials. How they tell a whole story in a short time. The music in ads is meant to give an emotional twist to the commercial.

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