5 Dollar Foot Long – the paradigm has long since shifted…

It’s no secret that commercials are to some extent the new radio. Ask Feist if the Apple “1,2,3,4” spots helped her sell a few albums. And I wonder if 70’s rock warhorse’s Foghat are getting a sales spike out of the new Carl’s Jr spots that feature their hit “Slow Ride” set to the arresting image of girl in tight jeans eating a sloppy burger on a mechanical bull – I’m not making this up. Then there’s the other side of the coin, the behind-the-scenes talent who increasingly turn to commercial work to pay the bills. I have two different songwriter friends who have both told me, quite happily, that they just got the gig to be the voice of (two different, respectively) department store chains (one of them got the Target ads in the U.S. and a Canadian friend got the Zellers chain ads). Then there’s the case of They Might Be Giants who have written about ten or so songs exclusively for Dunkin’ Donuts. You can’t miss ’em. “Fritalian” is so TMBG that I was surprised they weren’t actually IN the spot. Right now, just now actually, I heard a new song (by whom, I do not know) for Subway. The song has a really great indie pop hook, perhaps you know it. “Five…Five dollar…Five dollar foot long…” And when they sing “foot long” the chord is pure pop heaven, filled with the emotive longing of lazy days of summer – wistful is the word. Not traditional ad music at all. But that’s the point I guess. Ever since Nick Drake’s Pink Moon was used in that moonlit Volkswagen commercial — regardless of how Drake-heads felt about it, that ad generated a whole new cult of Nick Drake fans — or when Jose Gonzales’ recording (of the Knifes “Hearbeats”) was used in that Sony Bravia ad (the one with the tiny colourful balls bouncing down the hills of San Francisco) or “Half Acre,” the Hem tune on the Liberty Mutual ads, the paradigm has long since shifted. Frankly, in this DVR / TiVo world, it makes perfect sense to give me a hook to make me watch your TV ad. I find I spend a lot of time, because I care about music, searching (google and the like) out the songs used in commercials these days. Here’s my question to you (and you can comment below) What songs or artists have you “discovered” through commercials? And as a bonus, Where did you go to find out who performed it and the name of the song?

6 Responses to “5 Dollar Foot Long – the paradigm has long since shifted…”

  1. Rebecca Stevenson Says:

    When I was living in England, I feverishly sought out two songs based on commercials alone: Living for the Weekend by Hard-Fi, which was featured in an unusual Carling Beer ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHHfynLYW1I), and Standing in the Way of Control by The Gossip, used to advertise a new tv show.
    To find the songs, I googled whatever lyrics I could decipher within quotation marks. Typing in: “going out tonight, baby you and I” feels silly but yields results!

    • It’s like I’m living in The Matrix. I cannot find anyone who will even acknowledge that there was an original rock hit song that the Five dolar footlong song was based on. It’s like someone bought and erased all references from the Web. It was a hit in I believe the early 2000’s. This needs to be investigated!

  2. hey Paul. My ears did a double-take when I heard Stephin Merrit’s Wheels On The Bus for Volvo(?). I googled his name and ‘car commercial’ to confirm it. And I secretly wished my kids were still 3 so I could play it for them.

  3. I’m SO glad you didn’t talk about selling out! If we’re going to see and hear so many adverts in our lives, I’d rather have them sound and look great!!

  4. Mumblinsumpthin Says:

    Great article Paul ! The Subway Ad music you mention has been haunting me all summer. There’s a song or a band in my head that just won’t come to the front every time I see / hear it. It reminds me of 60’s flower-power when it hits “that chord”, rather than indie-pop. A question : can you name any bands that use similar hooks / chords in their music ? One lead is all I need to banish the demon ! Mark

  5. Mumblinsumpthin Says:

    A little more research revealed this :


    So … maybe Jefferson Airplane or Donovan are good places to start ?

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