From radio to MTV to TV commercials, The Verve's mega-hit "Bitter Sweet
Symphony" has taken an unusual albeit increasingly popular route into the
Anyone watching the NFC Championship game between the San
Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers recently saw the premiere of a new
Nike commercial that uses "Bitter Sweet Symphony" to help sell the sportswear
giant's product. The decision to use the song as part of the Nike ad campaign is
another example of how large corporations are increasingly looking to attract
younger audiences through cutting-edge rock.
The 60-second television spot aired Jan. 11 on FOX network repeats the Nike's
most recent mantra "I Can" over images of men and women of all ages testing
their physical endurance, while the Verve's opening chords, violins and first
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Verve,_The/Bitter_Sweet_Symphony.ram">"Bitter Sweet Symphony" (RealAudio excerpt) provide a sort of soundtrack.
"It's just an incredibly emotional piece of music," said Michael Folino, who
worked on the advertisement using "Bitter Sweet Symphony." "We tried out a
number of different songs with the video but we simply responded to that piece."
However, rather than being chosen for its popular appeal, the decision to use
The Verve in a Nike commercial came purely out of a love of the song, he
added. "It wasn't that we were trying to get a younger audience by using this
popular song," says Folino, 33, a copywriter for the Portland, Oregon-based
advertising firm Wieden & Kennedy. Folino, who along with art director Joe
Shands and copywriter Mike Smith, acted as the creative team at Wieden &
Kennedy that produced the advertisement. "We were listening to the song way
before it became a hit."
The song, which reached the #2 position on the U. K. charts last year, is one of a number of today's hits that have found their way to
television commercials in recent years. Among the other examples are
Volkwagon's use of Lush's "Sweetness and Light" in a TV ad and the car
Floating_In_Space.ram">"Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In
Space" (RealAudio excerpt), the title track off their latest album, for a
promotional video to launch the new VW Beetle at auto trade shows across the
country two weeks ago. Negotiations are also underway to use the song in a
worldwide commercial, according to the band's label, Arista.
Prior to this, the trend among corporations seeking rock music-based
advertising was to purchase the rights to high-profile vintage hits such as Sly &
the Family Stone's "Everyday People," which has been used
recently by Toyota. Among the first rock hits to be sampled for commercials by
Nike was the Beatles' classic "Revolution."
But today, those classics seem to be giving way to modern melodies such as
Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping," from their Billboard top-10 album
Tubthumper. The hit song is currently being used in a TV ad for the
movie "Home Alone 3," as well as in an Italian commercial for Reno cars. In both
licensing instances, Chumbawamba are donating all profits to anarchistic
groups and anarchistic radio stations.
Meanwhile, head of U.S. Advertising for Nike Chris Zimmerman said that his
corporation is targeting the same young audience it has in the past and bristled
at the suggestion that Verve lead singer Richard Ashcroft's image -- self-
indulgent, defiant and bone thin -- is the opposite of Nike's positive, healthy
image. "The majority of the audience watching the ad aren't particularly
interested in the background of the band," he said.
The Verve's management recently issued a statement saying that the band
would not have consented to the Nike commercial if they had retained
publishing rights to their song in the first place, according to Ambrosia Healy,
the band publicist. "Though it is not The Verve's policy to have their music used
in commercial advertising, a portion of 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' has been
approved for use in a Nike television ad that is currently appearing in the U.S.
for a limited run. This would not have happened had The Verve not lost the
publishing copyright (and therefore artistic control) of 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' to
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Allen Klein/Abko Music," the statement read.
The Verve lost publishing copyrights and, thus, any profit for "BitterSweet
Symphony" after it was discovered they used a sample from an Andrew Loog
Oldham orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time." The Verve's
Virgin label still retains recorded synchronization rights, however, ensuring that
the band will make a small percentage of money earned from the Nike
The Verve consented to this arrangement, according to the statement, with hope
that Nike's use of the song would prevent "Bitter Sweet Symphony" from being
used elsewhere without the band's knowledge or input. A number of top
advertising agencies had sought rights to use the song, according to the band's
management, which added that The Verve settled on Nike because the band
said it felt the song would be used in a tasteful ad campaign.
A source close to the band, who refused to be named, reassured fans that "The
Verve definitely don't plan on doing this anymore with any of their other songs. It
was a one-time thing only."
Color="#720418">[Wed., Jan. 21, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]