Christopher Owens has been reading a book which offers insight into corporate branding of radical imagery.  


 

One of the more unsurprising elements of the recent uprising in America is just how quick corporate brands have been to jump on the bandwagon. Of course, this shouldn't be a big surprise considering brands have always wanted to portray themselves as revolutionaries. 

Don't believe me? Look at the standard advertising trope, which can be articulated as "Stand out from the crowd. Buy a *insert product here*" It's a very seductive proposition, appealing to ego and aspiration. 

During the recent riots (and subsequent looting), this meme could be found on Facebook and Twitter: 


 

Aside from the obvious cutting message, it got the tone and wording down to a tee. But capitalists and revolutionaries make strange bedfellows, as fans of the Beatles discovered in 1987. 

Published in August 2018, Advertising Revolution examines a pivotal moment in advertising history, the Nike advert that used 'Revolution' by The Beatles as its soundtrack. Turning rebellion into money, as the Clash once proclaimed, it was perceived as the last bastions of 60's idealism giving way to the greed of the 80's. A betrayal of something, even if people disagreed about what it betrayed. 

So how did this come to be? 

Beginning by examining the various versions of 'Revolution' that are available (the straight up rocker that was the b-side to 'Hey Jude', the slow 'Revolution 1' and the experimental 'Revolution No. 9'), the authors examine the lyrics, the context in which they were written by John Lennon and how the various versions of the song lend themselves to multiple interpretations. 

This is crucial because it then helps to explain the backlash to the advert. 

Moving onto the history of Nike and the state of advertising in the 1980's, we discover that advertising had come a long way from "Open New Year's Day" style ads of someone pointing at a shop. The concept of suits talking about market research was anathema to advertisers like Chiat/Day (who still describe themselves as a "radically open creative collective"). 

With Nike being firmly relegated to second division (due to the success of Reebok), it was time for the company to rethink their traditional hostility to advertising. So the partnership of Nike and Chiat/Day resulted in the following: 

Not only did it pull off the impossible (having a Beatles recording as the soundtrack to an advert) but it also sent Nike into the stratosphere as well as Chiat/Day. Although not the first advert to have a famous song as its soundtrack, it was certainly the most notable, establishing a tradition that carries on today. 





Notably, both authors discuss the backlash from fans of the Beatles. Reprinting letters sent to Nike, it's interesting to read how these people clung onto the idea of 'Revolution' being a song about, well, revolution. 

The embodiment of this line of thinking is demonstrated with LA Reader critic Chris Morris. He is quoted as follows:

When 'Revolution' came out in 1968 I was getting tear gassed in the streets of Madison. That song is part of the soundtrack of my political life. It bugs the hell out of me that it has been turned into a shoe ad. 

Similar sentiments are expressed regarding people talking about being beaten at anti-Vietnam War protests. 

However, I wonder if this is a distortion of memory. Because, as both authors make clear, Lennon was lambasted by the radical left when the song was released. One Village Voice writer complained that, although:

It is puritanical to expect musicians ... to hew the proper line ... it is reasonable to request that they do not go out of their way to oppose it. Lennon has and it takes much of the pleasure out of their music for me. 

This could also be down to trans-Atlantic differences. The traditional American view of Lennon is that he was a revolutionary (hence the FBI file), while the English perspective is that he was a berk who could write a catchy tune. 

Nonetheless, the concept of "revolution" becomes blurred and distorted by such an advert. No one bats an eyelid when a band like Gang of Four allow a song like 'Natural's Not In It to be used for an Xbox ad (lyrics: "The problem of leisure/What to do for pleasure/Ideal love a new purchase/A market of the senses").  



Running at under 100 pages, Advertising Revolution is a succinct depiction of how popular culture is open to misinterpretation, and the ideological war that can break out when you have two sides who have two fundamentally different interpretations of a pop song.

Although that may sound silly, it does have ramifications (especially for 2020). Especially with Nike using Colin Kapernick in their ads. Do you want a revolution, or are you just blinded by the lights?

Alan Bradshaw, Linda Scott, 2018. Advertising Revolution: The Story of a Song, From Beatles Hit to Nike Slogan. Repeater Books ISBN-13: 978-1912248216

⏩Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

Advertising Revolution

Christopher Owens has been reading a book which offers insight into corporate branding of radical imagery.  


 

One of the more unsurprising elements of the recent uprising in America is just how quick corporate brands have been to jump on the bandwagon. Of course, this shouldn't be a big surprise considering brands have always wanted to portray themselves as revolutionaries. 

Don't believe me? Look at the standard advertising trope, which can be articulated as "Stand out from the crowd. Buy a *insert product here*" It's a very seductive proposition, appealing to ego and aspiration. 

During the recent riots (and subsequent looting), this meme could be found on Facebook and Twitter: 


 

Aside from the obvious cutting message, it got the tone and wording down to a tee. But capitalists and revolutionaries make strange bedfellows, as fans of the Beatles discovered in 1987. 

Published in August 2018, Advertising Revolution examines a pivotal moment in advertising history, the Nike advert that used 'Revolution' by The Beatles as its soundtrack. Turning rebellion into money, as the Clash once proclaimed, it was perceived as the last bastions of 60's idealism giving way to the greed of the 80's. A betrayal of something, even if people disagreed about what it betrayed. 

So how did this come to be? 

Beginning by examining the various versions of 'Revolution' that are available (the straight up rocker that was the b-side to 'Hey Jude', the slow 'Revolution 1' and the experimental 'Revolution No. 9'), the authors examine the lyrics, the context in which they were written by John Lennon and how the various versions of the song lend themselves to multiple interpretations. 

This is crucial because it then helps to explain the backlash to the advert. 

Moving onto the history of Nike and the state of advertising in the 1980's, we discover that advertising had come a long way from "Open New Year's Day" style ads of someone pointing at a shop. The concept of suits talking about market research was anathema to advertisers like Chiat/Day (who still describe themselves as a "radically open creative collective"). 

With Nike being firmly relegated to second division (due to the success of Reebok), it was time for the company to rethink their traditional hostility to advertising. So the partnership of Nike and Chiat/Day resulted in the following: 

Not only did it pull off the impossible (having a Beatles recording as the soundtrack to an advert) but it also sent Nike into the stratosphere as well as Chiat/Day. Although not the first advert to have a famous song as its soundtrack, it was certainly the most notable, establishing a tradition that carries on today. 





Notably, both authors discuss the backlash from fans of the Beatles. Reprinting letters sent to Nike, it's interesting to read how these people clung onto the idea of 'Revolution' being a song about, well, revolution. 

The embodiment of this line of thinking is demonstrated with LA Reader critic Chris Morris. He is quoted as follows:

When 'Revolution' came out in 1968 I was getting tear gassed in the streets of Madison. That song is part of the soundtrack of my political life. It bugs the hell out of me that it has been turned into a shoe ad. 

Similar sentiments are expressed regarding people talking about being beaten at anti-Vietnam War protests. 

However, I wonder if this is a distortion of memory. Because, as both authors make clear, Lennon was lambasted by the radical left when the song was released. One Village Voice writer complained that, although:

It is puritanical to expect musicians ... to hew the proper line ... it is reasonable to request that they do not go out of their way to oppose it. Lennon has and it takes much of the pleasure out of their music for me. 

This could also be down to trans-Atlantic differences. The traditional American view of Lennon is that he was a revolutionary (hence the FBI file), while the English perspective is that he was a berk who could write a catchy tune. 

Nonetheless, the concept of "revolution" becomes blurred and distorted by such an advert. No one bats an eyelid when a band like Gang of Four allow a song like 'Natural's Not In It to be used for an Xbox ad (lyrics: "The problem of leisure/What to do for pleasure/Ideal love a new purchase/A market of the senses").  



Running at under 100 pages, Advertising Revolution is a succinct depiction of how popular culture is open to misinterpretation, and the ideological war that can break out when you have two sides who have two fundamentally different interpretations of a pop song.

Although that may sound silly, it does have ramifications (especially for 2020). Especially with Nike using Colin Kapernick in their ads. Do you want a revolution, or are you just blinded by the lights?

Alan Bradshaw, Linda Scott, 2018. Advertising Revolution: The Story of a Song, From Beatles Hit to Nike Slogan. Repeater Books ISBN-13: 978-1912248216

⏩Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

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