Indecent Exposure

You have probably seen the Geico ad of Peter Frampton using his voice box to lend celebrity back up to a woman as she tells a story about insurance. I was a little taken aback when I first saw this ad because I had met Peter Frampton just a few months prior in the lounge at work.

I was working at a large agency in Chicago and Peter Frampton stopped by on tour. It was less rocking than the 1967 San Francisco show that made him famous: he was making his rounds to different ad agencies to promote himself and his music for use in television spots. It felt sort of like a coming out party. Unfortunately, Frampton did not perform any brain-melting talk box solos, but he did answer questions. When asked why he was reaching out to the advertising world, Frampton said that he was seeking exposure: that the advertising medium was the most efficient way to get his music to young listeners.

Frampton evoked another aging classic rocker, John Mellencamp, saying that like The Cougar, he felt that the only way his music would reach the new generation of music listener was if it appeared in ads. That’s why Mellencamp, who formerly bristled at the thought of his songs being used for retail, allowed Chevy to use his music for their sappy This Is Our Country campaign. That’s why Frampton was meeting us in the lounge.

To this day, something about that answer seems misinformed and a little sad. What Frampton and Johnny Cougar did not realize is that their waning popularity among young people wasn’t a matter of exposure. If music listeners of the information generation wanted to listen to either of these guys—or any other established rock act for that matter—they would download the songs from LimeWire or The Pirate Bay. It’s not that music-listeners don’t know who these rockers are, it’s that they are uninterested in listening to them.

The exposure from advertising can be very helpful for bands, but usually only if it is lack exposure that is keeping the band back in the first place. Young bands (Band Of Horses appearing on an ad for the Ford Edge) and obscure older musicians (the classic Nick Drake VW spot) can prosper by appearing on ads. Aging rockers who are struggling for significance? Much less likely.

This week's guest column was written by DJ Mas - a Chicago copywriter and our resident ad-tune spinning house DJ.

19 comments:

Chuck In Manhattan said...

Hey man, give it a rest...This is OURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR country!

*barf*

Anonymous said...

1967? Peter Frampton was all of 17 then and still a member of The Herd back in England. I think you meant 1976. Transposing numbers - happens to the best of us. As for Frampton, yes, young people do know who he is and I know many kids who are my kid's ages (18 & 15) who know of him and appreciate his music. He's a musician's musician, so he's most widely recognized and appreciated by other guitarists these days, young and old.

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What's he supposed to say? I'm here because I need some cash.

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