Thursday, December 06, 2007

Through the years

Have you seen the latest TV advertisement from Nikon? They adopted a technique that has been used ’through the years’; namely to simply play a nice song without saying anything about their product. The song of course is Kenny Rogers’ THROUGH THE YEARS.

It brings to mind a few other memorable tunes:

The first is Louis Armstrong’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD used by Fuji Film some years ago. I believe this ad won an award for the Viewer’s Choice at that time. Viewer’s Choice was a competition where viewers chose their favourite advertisement. (I think you will like this version)

Another one is The New Seekers’ I’d LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING used by Coca Cola. This advert used to come up during the Christmas season. It showed a group of young people from different countries holding lighted candles and singing the song. As the camera zooms out, you see the picture of a Christmas tree formed by the candles. In this case, they modified the song a little to include, among other things, Coke’s famous tag line, It’s the Real Thing. You can see this ad here.

But my favourite is still Paul Anka’s TIMES OF YOUR LIFE for Kodak. Not only are the lyrics so meaningful; Paul Anka’s soulful voice adds a certain melancholy to the mood. I remember seeing this ad at the old Cathay Cinema. The snippet showed Paul Anka singing the song in a recording studio with headphones and all. The year was probably around 1975. You can listen to it here.

Some years ago, Kodak did a brief re-make of this advertisement; but the song was sung by someone else. I felt that it was a complete flop. Viewers who knew the song would automatically compare this version with Paul Anka’s and the obvious result would be disappointment. I think what Kodak should have done and should do is to show the original advertisement scratches and all. The age of the images, the old seventies fashion and even the scratchy sounds would themselves provide the nostalgia and remind the viewer about the brand name, Kodak.

In fact, I actually made a suggestion to Kodak to do just that. On their website, they have a feedback/suggestions section where they will reward you if your ideas are adopted. My suggestion however, was not adopted. I suspect there were some copyright issues involved. Too bad. Young viewers of today will not able to see for themselves what I try to describe here in words.

A view of the beautiful landscape outside our camp in Chien-Pu, Heng Chun, Taiwan, in March 1977

Whenever I hear Times of Your Life, I am reminded of my time doing army training in Taiwan on what was called Exercise Starlight. It was the culmination of our nine months of Officer Cadet Training. One day, my friends and I were moving along a dried river bed near our camp in Heng Chun. It was summer time and the river was quite dry. By the way, we were not supposed to do that. It was cheating and if caught would have certainly earned us some punishment. Anyway, as we passed a village, I heard this song coming from one of the houses and it made me terribly homesick.

Here’s another 'Ad song' I stumbled on while surfing around on YouTube - Kodak’s 1960’s advertisement using the song; Turn Around.

Do you have a favourite song like the ones I mentioned above? Please do share with us.


oceanskies79 said...

I remember the Fuji ad in which the song What a Wonderful World was used. It was lovely, and I remember looking forward to watch the complete version of the ad on TV.

I don't listen to English songs in general, and I think I was acquainted with I'd like to teach the world to sing thanks to the Coca Cola ad.

Anonymous said...

I love that song! I've been trying to find it! heehee

I remember seeing one of the commercial.. with the song BORN FREE. Anyone has any idea which brand it is?

Unknown said...

Ahhh.... TV commercials and their familiar jingles form some of the barometers of popular culture. I love Paul Anka's song for that Kodak ad, and Coca Cola's too.

Some of my favourite tunes include the operatic ditties for British Airways advertisements like Aria on Air and more recently the Lakme or Flower Duet. The ones by Swatch were also pretty good, especially "Breathe" by Midge Ure.

For local advertisements, Dick Lee's "Life Story" for an insurance company struck me as memorable.

Victor said...

Chun See, thanks for the very nostalgic and well-researched blog entry.

Another memorable favourite of mine is Love Theme from the Love Unlimited Orchestra. This song was once used in a TV advert of Cathay Pacific Airlines back in the 70s.

Then there was a very nice old song used very appropriately to market a condominium a few years back. (Sorry that I can't remember what song that was. Maybe your readers can help me out?)

I also particularly like Jennifer Anniston in a recent funny Heineken advertisement with no words spoken but only the song Happy Together by The Turtles.

If your readers are interested, they can find out more about songs used in TV ads here. However, it is a US-based website.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes I think I remember seeing the 'Born Free' advertisement. But I too cannot recall which product was it.

Anonymous said...

Nostalgic songs - how r they selected or become popular? Is that due to the melody or the lyrics? OR is it because it is trendy, die die must use that song?What do u think?

I am not saying that recent songs r not good, some do invoke feelings or are suitable for special events and special moments. One such number is "You Raised me Up" by Josh Grobin. OR "Love Me For A Reason" by Donny Osmond.

As an "out-dated" (read not as "Out-of-this world") musician myself, I believe with some creativity, a song can be tweaked to be a powerful tool to reach out to that special person or the consumer.

Maybe u guys should think of one song and tell us what it means to you then?

Anonymous said...

There is 1 oldie which i knew in my time called "I love U For A Sentimental Reason" by Nat King Cole. Well what do u know, it became the signature song for a Korean hit movie in 2006. Bada's latest version is really a teaser....

Once I heard a fella sung "I Believe" in Korean and I thot he was Korean but it turned out that he was a senior partner of PWCCoopers - a very good singer indeed.

Anonymous said...

I remembered an advertisment from BOAC (I think it is now British Airways) with these words - "We'll never let you down"

Victor said...

Anonymous - Gosh! "We'll never let you down" for an airline in today's context will mean circling the airport, waiting forever to land. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Victor, that's message was not meant to be flying non stop. Apparently, BOAC stop that phrase almost immediately after they realised that it is not suitable.
Another airline though has got a nice pharse. That is our own Singapore Airline - 'Inflight services even other airlines talk about' Now, that's something.

Lam Chun See said...

Recently, I was having an email exchange wtih my friend James Seah about the memorable advertising tag lines of bygone years. I have compiled a list and will blog about it shortly.