In 2002, one of the most decorated and acclaimed groups became synonymous with a car company of the same stature. Long thought to be an immovable and unreachable piece of music, Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” became the first track in the group’s catalog to be used in a television commercial. And fittingly, the song appeared alongside a new, high-class Cadillac line with the advertising tagline “Breakthrough.”
Seemingly the beginning of a new wave of advertising, one where nothing was off limits, where groups like Led Zeppelin would play alongside Budweiser bottles and Applebee’s ribs, the commercial actually signified something much more interesting: A shifting age group and responsive, aware advertisers.
As the Baby Boomer generation aged and became the target audience for high-end cars, Cadillac had to shift their advertising campaign to accommodate and intrigue a generation that had grown up with the rock legends. The CEOs of 2002 were in their 40s and 50s and had no use for the often dry and irrelevant advertising campaigns of Cadillac’s past. So in the face of an increasingly down-to-earth buyer, the American car company responded.
But this campaign wouldn’t last long. Recently, Cadillac has diverged from the Baby Boomer market. Their latest set of commercials appeal to a younger crowd by using the explosive, yet mostly unknown “Stars,” off of Hum’s epic You’d Prefer an Astronaut. Possibly noticing the average age of their patrons slipping lower, the company smartly picked a more aggressive and youth-friendly theme song. The driving percussion and aggressively distorted guitars are the perfect backdrop for Cadillac’s high-powered machines and indicative of the younger generation buying their vehicles.
But Cadillac isn’t the only company taking this youthful approach. Apple – a rather Generation-Y-leaning and progressive-thinking company in its own right – has bombarded the airwaves with Feist, an indie-rock staple, and her childishly delightful “1234.” A few years ago, a Honda Civic commercial even used Sri Lankan princess M.I.A.’s grimy “Galang” in their animated commercial.
Chicago’s Wilco sold the rights to six songs from their latest album Sky Blue Sky to Volkswagon for a mass of commercials, while Hummer and the KnowHIVAIDS campaign have both used songs by spastic samplers The Books. All of these stand as testaments to the buying power and importance of today’s youth, as well as the intelligence of these advertising firms.
But arguably the most intriguing aspect of all of these artists is their status in the musical world. Each one of these groups (except Led Zeppelin) is commonly considered to be in the indie realm, outside of the mainstream. It seems as though the mainstream media has finally caught onto what critics and die-hard fans have thought to be a superior brand of music – a trend that began most notably with the “Garden State” soundtrack and the media frenzy that followed.
Now, where before it seemed impossible, there appears to be a common ground between these big name marketers and the hipsters walking around with tight jeans and too many pins on their shoulder bags. What that means to music industry behemoths likes Clear Channel Radio and MTV are yet to be seen, but the outlook is promising. Less Britney Spears and more Feist. Less of Moby and more of The Books. Who knows?
All I know for sure is that I really want a Cadillac.