An ad agency CEO I worked for once told me a valuable lesson about how some decisions in advertising get made. Why, I asked, would Pittsburgh-based Giant-Eagle choose a New York ad agency instead of one closer to home, such as Pittsburgh, Phili or Detroit? His answer: If you had moved from Chicago to Pittsburgh (which the marketing director had done) would you rather make an excuse to go to Detroit a couple of times a month or New York on the company's nickel?
And so I wonder sometimes about the choice of music acts in advertising these days. Take Ameriquest's link-up with The Rolling Stones concert tour. The mortgage company couldn't get the Stones to cut an ad for it, but the company created an ad that appears as if Mick Jagger and Co. did just that. Ameriquest says the big-money tie-up with the Stones tour makes sense because a lot of people buying houses and mortgages grew up with the Stones. Maybe so, but it smells a bit like the marketing execs at the company are Stones fans rather than it being a strategic stroke of marketing acumen.
Likewise, I point to Hennessey Cognac's choice of Marvin Gaye, adding the "I heard It Through The Grapevine" artist who died in 1984 to its "Never Blend In" ad series, which has featured spotlighted Miles Davis and Isaac Hayes and others. I know some of today's hip hop artists lionize Gaye and other soul artists from decades ago. But I can't help thinking Gaye's music is just seen as less threatening, and also less edgy, than some present day artists. I can't help thinking the choice was made by some fortysomething ad execs whose record collection hasn't been updated since Bush 41 was in office.
Check the Starbucks CDs they have issued? Ray Charles, Alanis Morrisette. And Albums on the company's Hear Music page: Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Sly and The Family Stone. New artist Antigone Rising is the exception to that rule, though I don't find the band especially edgy or fresh. Having had the pleasure of talking to Starbuck's chairman Howard Schultz about the company's music strategy, I can't help thinking that his own taste in music plays a big role in choosing what Starbucks distributes. No problem for me, as those artists are all found in my CD collection. But when I talk to people under 30, I find that I'm lucky to know one out of ten of the acts they are listening to.
My point: That while these artists and bands have a place with my 42-year old heart, Im not sure companies who are letting their baby-bbom marketing execs call the music shots are getting the most up-to-date perspective when it comes to reaching a younger audience.