Return To Main PageCOMMANDO LOGO

1/11/99 - The Song Remains The Same

Music has long been a way to create a unique identity in broadcast advertising. As the old saying goes, "if you can't say it, sing it." Well, there's not much singing going on nowadays since jingles have fallen out a fashion (a good subject for a future dispatch). Pop song licensing has been a booming business for decades. But is it really worth the considerable investment when two advertisers hang their campaigns on the same song at the same time?

Such is the case with the song "I Believe I Can Fly" from the Michael Jordan animated feature "Space Jam." MCI bought the Space Jam concept with MJ and the Loony Toons gang starring in the launch of "MCI Five Cent Sundays" (bet the campaign cost a whole lotta nickels). It's sad to hear a beautiful song like this violated by Mel Blanc impersonators screeching it in cartoon voices. (Granted, it is attention-getting in a nails-on-a-chalkboard sort of way.)

What's sadder still, is the fact that Mobil Oil is running a campaign with an instrumental version of the same song. See, Pegasus the flying horse is on their logo. Though playing up the Pegasus imagery might suggest the tagline would be something about "flying to new heights," it's actually "the energy to make a difference."

Considering the length of time it took to produce these elaborate campaigns, you'd think the issue of a "musical conflict of interest" might have come up. Didn't the licensing company inform both agencies that another company would be using the music simultaneously in a national campaign? Or did the agencies rationalize this with the fact that the product categories and the music treatments are different?

Whatever the case, it's strange how ad agencies continue to uphold the taboo on client conflicts of interest (which is nonexistent in other service businesses). Yet, executional "conflicts of interest" which compromise the impact of a client's communications are of little concern.