BOB GARFIELD: Here's a song you've heard about 10,000 times: [START TAPE]
BEACH BOYS: WELL, SHE GOT HER DADDY'S CAR, AND SHE CRUISED TO THE HAMBURGER STAND NOW. SEEMS SHE FORGOT ALL ABOUT THE LIBRARY LIKE SHE TOLD HER OLD MAN NOW. AND WITH THE RADIO BLASTIN' GOES CRUISING JUST AS FAST AS SHE CAN, NOW. AND SHE'LL HAVE FUN, FUN, FUN TILL HER DADDY TAKES THE T-BIRD AWAY-- --FUN, FUN, FUN TILL HER DADDY TAKES THE T-BIRD AWAY. [END TAPE]
BOB GARFIELD: When the Beach Boys recorded that ditty, it was a love song for the Thunderbird -- not a financial arrangement with the Ford Motor Company. But, as someone else once recorded -- The times, they are a-changin'. When Run DMC released My Adidas in 1986, the shoe company offered the rap group a formal 1.5 million dollar endorsement deal, marking maybe the last time the horse was pulling the cart. Recently, General Motors paid rapper Ms. Jade 300,000 dollars to put two Hummers in a music video, and other advertisers are paying musicians and record labels to include brand names in song lyrics. T.L. Stanley has covered this new era of pop music product placement for Advertising Age --the greatest trade magazine in the world --(where I also work). Terry, welcome to On the Media.
T.L. STANLEY: Hey, how are you?
BOB GARFIELD: I'm well, thank you. Product placements in movies have gone on for decades. TV seems to be trusting its entire future to the intersection of Madison and Vine. Should we be surprised that the music industry is trying to ride the same gravy train?
T.L. STANLEY: Absolutely not, because the music business is struggling. It is only natural at this point for you as an artist to look to a deep pockets advertiser for the kind of -- not just payout, but the kind of exposure and marketing dollars that you can gain by making an alliance with a marketer.
BOB GARFIELD: Now, as I mentioned, Ms. Jade was paid a tidy sum to put a Hummer in her music video. Would that be a creative stretch, or would the insertion of, of-- the Hummer be a relatively painless process?
T.L. STANLEY: Cars and booze are the most prevalent things in hip hop videos. So there's going to be a vehicle in that video, [MS. JADE SONG UNDER] and if someone wants to pay her to drive a Hummer instead of an Escalade, fine. [MS. JADE SONG UP FULL, THEN FADES] I mean, we are in a situation a little bit where the, the tail is wagging the dog --where some label would say -- particularly with an up and coming artist -- this artist has written a song, and it mentions this brand of alcohol - so let's go talk to that brand of alcohol, and see if they want to be involved. Do they want to sponsor this, this person's tour? Do they want to do some marketing? Because it could just as easily be another brand, and we'll go and talk to them.
BOB GARFIELD: When product placements in films were overdone, there was an audience backlash, and I expect to very soon see the same thing with these clumsy TV plugs that are everywhere. But is there something about youthful music audiences, especially hip hop, that so embraces the brand culture that there's no risk of turning off the listener? I mean Busta Rhymes writing Pass the Courvoisier, Part II hasn't seemed to infuriate anyone, you know, except possibly Hennessy and Martel.
T.L. STANLEY: Right. That hip hop audience is very brand-aware, but if someone starts rapping about household cleaning products, then-- [LAUGHTER] that will be a problem.
BOB GARFIELD: I just want to ask you about music videos. More and more you're seeing products actually pop up in those. Doesn't that cause a problem for MTV, for example? Don't those exposures -potentially irritate the advertisers on MTV who may be selling a competing product?
T.L. STANLEY: I'm not sure if their policy is really set in stone these days. Now, back in the day, you know, when MTV was younger, really the only thing they used to have to worry about pixilating out were pot leaves all over people's shirts and their hats, but now they do that for brands. If it's a big logo on someone's shirt, perhaps that'll be blurred out. But it's so prevalent that you couldn't possibly pixilate out every brand reference in a music video. That's all you would notice.
BOB GARFIELD: All right, we've come now to the last question, and I almost hesitate to ask it, but I'm going to anyway. This rash of product placements -- doesn't it compromise the art of popular music?
T.L. STANLEY: I think that depends on what kind of music you're talking about, how the reference is made. Hip hop is all about bling. It's about talking about what you have, showing off the spoils of your wealth, so you're wearing Prada, you're wearing Gucci, you're drinking Cristal-- it's-- very much accepted that it will be littered with brands. It's a different matter, of course, if you are a band like Radiohead. Just ain't gonna happen.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, Terry. Well, listen, thank you very much.
T.L. STANLEY: Absolutely. Good talking to you, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: T.L. Stanley covers entertainment for my favorite magazine, Advertising Age. [MS. JADE SONG UP]