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The Narrative in Song

For Art Directors and Copywriters there are exciting opportunities to explore in the appropriate use of songs in soundtracks for commercials.

It has often been said that a song is poetry set to music. This statement has never been truer since Bob Dylan received the ‘Nobel Prize For Literature’.

A song can drive a narrative, ad context and thought provoking truths about aspects of life and our society, create an emotive ambience, provide humour, pathos, and be evocatively resonant.

Songs and can also be a compelling rallying call of religious praise, shared patriotism and celebratory happenstance.

The advantages to be had of making a song the relevant narrative focus or story enhancement of an advertising communication are many.

1. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge The Anthem

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago and Sydney

To create a Global Anthem for Samsung to celebrate the 2016 Rio Olympics, relevant lines from various national anthems were selected to be skillfully interwoven in a unifying anthem that poignantly demonstrates that at heart nations are more united in our shared humanity than we sometimes think.

The Lyrics:

Through our unity and harmony, we’ll remain at peace as one.
For we are young and free, with glowing hearts we see thee rise.
The day of glory has arrived, oh say can you see, a vivid ray of love and hope descends to Earth.
The people living united and progressive, join together all of our hearts as one.
Happy and glorious, listen to us gently, with the infinite love.
Unity and justice and freedom, stand unchanged by wind and frost.
Offer peace to friends, and united we shall stand.

2. Tullamore Dew Irish Whisky The Parting Glass

Advertising Agency: Opperman Weiss, New York.

Directed by Laurence Dunmore, the narrative is driven by the lyrics of a beautiful Irish song that underscores this superbly crafted commercial that is an evocative joy to watch and is definitely in a league of it’s own.

The Irish have a unique, philosophical, whimsical and stoically pragmatic approach to life that has sustained them through a long history of hardship.

Expressions of the indomitable, folkloric ‘True Irish Spirit’ are abundant in Irish songs that are admired by many.

The Lyrics:

Oh all the money that e’er I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
 Alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
 To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
 Good night and joy be with you all
Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
 Are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had
 Would wish me one more day to stay
To memory now I can’t recall
 So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
 Good night and joy be with you all

3. The Carmina Burana Inspired Epic for Carlton Draught

Adertising Agency: Patterson and Partners, Melbourne (now Y&R ANZ)

Composer Carl Orffs ‘O Fortuna’ from his ‘Carmina Burana’ cantata, drives this entertaining parody of the ‘Advertising Epic’. A considerable amount of artistic liscence was taken with the words of the song and the end result is a humourous, advertising classic of note.

The Lyrics:

It’s a big ad. Very big ad.
It’s a big ad we’re in. It’s a big ad.
My God it’s big! Can’t believe how big it is!
It’s a big ad! For Carlton Draught!
It’s just so freaking HUGE!
It’s a big ad! Expensive ad!
This ad better sell some bloo-oo-oo-oody beer!

4. Adidas, Original Is Never Finished

Advertising Agency: Johannes Leonardo, New York

Creative Director Wes Phelan insightfully noted that the past empowers the future.

“We wanted the film to reflect the rich past of all creative spheres: music, art, film and sport. Starting with the music, we intentionally chose a track that had been done multiple times before to prove our point, that original is never finished.”

“The song provides the narrative thread that connects the different role players and the motivation of their creative drive.”

The commercial was filmed in various locations throughout Europe and Africa by South African film director Terence Neale. The image disruptions and definition fluctuations are intentional and part of the desired ‘actuality’ look and feel he wanted to create.

‘Original Is Never Finished’ was one of YouTube’s 10 most watched commercials of 2017 having reached a staggering 25.4 million views.

The mix of modern creators featured are: Snoop Dogg, hip-hop artist Stormzy, basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and artist Petra Collins’ re-imagining of Boticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’; all set to the re-worked sounds of Frank Sinatra’s classic tune ‘My Way’.

‘My Way’ was especialy written and composed by Billy Joel for Frank Sinatra. It was a huge global hit and today it is still sung in carioca bars across the globe. Here’s an extract of the lyrics that probably many of us already know by heart.

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way