I don’t care whether it’s selling out or buying in.
Bob Dylan was, is, and always will be a brand name.
He knows it and you know it. That’s why he's not Robert Zimmerman.
The year was 1995 and Bob Dylan was under attack for leasing his unsanctioned baby boomer anthem of 1964, “The Times They Are A’ Changin’” for a TV commercial for Coopers & Lybrand, a big six accounting firm and, in Canada, for the Bank of Montreal.
Some were infuriated, some were heartbroken, and most, I have to believe, didn’t care one way or another.
To Dylan, it was a strictly business.
Upkeep of his Point Dume copper-domed manse ain’t cheap, y’ know.
A couple of years later Dylan pacted with a Greek beer company for use one of his more obscure tracks, “Turkey Chase” from the 1973 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack.
The brew pitch flew under the radar of most fans and critics.
In 2004, Dylan flabbergasted his flock when he leased “Love Sick,” a track from 1997’s Time Out of Mind for a Victoria’s Secret TV spot run. His commercial cameo bordered on creepy since he looked old enough to be the grandfather of the lingerie-wearing model flirting with him.
Salon cleverly called it “Tangled Up in the Boobs.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
I would’ve loved to have been a fly in the wall at the marketing meeting where it was agreed that Dylan’s appearance in a TV spot could inspire 18 to 34-year old women to buy intimate apparel and reap dividends for Victoria’s Secret.
The latest venture into merging brand Dylan to a product is Cadillac.
In 2002, as part of their all-out quest for a hipness factor they cut a deal with Led Zeppelin to use snippets of “Rock and Roll” for a long-running radio and TV campaign.
Now, Cadillac is back with a deal cut with Dylan and this one is a full-tilt multimedia campaign that rolls in Cadillac with XM Satellite Radio, which is a standard feature in the gas guzzling 2008 Escalade.
XM is, of course, home to Bob Dylan’s weekly radio show.
Expect to see Dylan in TV, radio, print and on-line video ads. The campaign's already on CNBC, CNN, the History Channel, and VH1
There’s a thirty second version, a one-minute version and a two-minute version, and, no doubt, more to follow.
The print campaign kicks off with the November 2 issue of Rolling Stone.
Dylan also sold one of his XM Radio shows to Cadillac. It will feature an hour-long tribute to the brand, featuring his and other artists who've recorded songs that mention Cadillac, including Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” and “Cadillac Ranch.” I’m not sure if the Boss wants to be inadvertently selling Caddies for Dylan – but he recorded the songs and Dylan’s playing them.
The same applies to Aretha on her “Freeway of Love;” “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry, and the Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac.” Like it or not, these artists will help Dylan hawk cars on XM and won’t get to share in the great white wonder’s newfound wealth.
Dylan’s no stranger to Caddies.
“Talkin’ World War III Blues” from the 1972 Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album, contained the lyrics: Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown/And there was nobody aroun'/I got into the driver's seat/And I drove 42nd Street/In my Cadillac/Good car to drive after a war.
Dylan made another Caddy reference in “Summer Days” from 2001’s Love and Theft: Well I'm drivin' in the flats in a Cadillac car/The girls all say, "You're a worn out star"/My pockets are loaded and I'm spending every dime/How can you say you love someone else when you know it's me all the time?
Stop right there.
You say the XM channel Bob Dylan is on is supposed to be commercial-free?
No one rides for free – not even on satellite radio. It’s just another form of product placement or what they call in radio, non-traditional revenue.
"Some brands can transition from brands to an object as more people connect with the product," says Vernon Irvin, XM’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. "Cadillac has done that."
Since Dylan picks a theme for his show and relatable songs, hawking Caddies, they claim, isn’t any different than other themes he plans for upcoming shows, which include California, fruit, something, nothing, parties, mail, and streets. “Cadillac being so woven into the American fabric, there's a lot of songs that incorporate Cadillac into the lyrics,” so says Cadillac’s Communication Manager Kevin Smith, whose job it is to sell all things Caddy.
So while Sting and those other environmentally concerned pussies are pitching Prius hybrids, Dylan’s message for the new millennium is to show the world you have big carbon footprints.
The campaign is scheduled to run until early 2008.
A few weeks back Dylan surprised fans and when his web site used the opening lyric card scene from the D.A. Pennebaker's 1966 documentary, Don’t Look Back, to promo his new greatest hits package. He even went high tech allowing his flock to send their own video e-mail messages placing their own words in the cards that once featured key lyrics from “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It’s pretty clever. Not sure how Pennebaker feels about it, though.
Around the same time, Dylan did a modern times remix of “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine” from his 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde, and shot a new video for it, which can only be described as a parody of himself. Clever – but a parody nonetheless. Unless, of course, you’re just pitching a brand.
The remix is on Dylan's just-released His Greatest Songs collection, available in three packages: a single 18-song disc; a three CD set with 51 songs - and a "Deluxe Premium Edition," which features the 51-song package - plus other goodies, including a 40-page booklet of extended liner notes and rare photos.
Dylan - Masked and Anonymous? Hardly.
Is there still magic in the tank? We’ll see.
...and now for even more free advertising. See how clever Dylan is?
Bob, is the check in the mail?
Dylan's two-minute Caddy spot:
A Bob Blast from the Past: