Friday, October 26, 2007

Radio: XM and Bob Dylan - Gotta Sell Somebody

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:


John said...

I've really got no problem with this. And I say this as a huge fan of Bob. In my opinion, the most important living popular music artist. The day he passes will find me at home from work and listening to his catalgue and raising glasses with friends.
Here's hoping the Dylan's Cadillac themed show includes Mildred Jones' Mr. Thrill.
"My daddy's got a long long long Cadillac,
and when he rides me he throws me way in the back.
When he put it in my gagrage..."
Well, you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Dylan was never the voice of a generation and he admitted it. When he was expected to do Blonde on Blonde II he did Nashville Skyline instead. Who could forget Self Portrait or some of his terrible albums in the mid 80s to mid 90s. He was probably renegotiating a contract and deliberately put out bad albums.

Anonymous said...

More power to Bob Dylan.......if you could cash in on your brand, John, you would too. Unfortunately there aren't many people willing to pay a douchebag.

Anonymous said...

John, Great comments on Dylan. Something inside me is disapointed that Dylan didn't endorse something more earth-friendly. I thought the Victoria Secret TV commercial he did was edgy in a good way.

Anonymous said...

Bob Dylan hasn't been right since that motorcycle crash.

Joe Stancato said...

I was disapointed when Dylan sold his "Times" anthem to an accounting firm.

But after reading a few books about Dylan I can see why he did it.

Child support, divorces, settlements and other grown up stuff that happens to adults these days.

He is fortunate to have that royalty nest egg to tap. We normal folks would do a home equity loan for the same reason.

J Glover said...

Thank you for the videos. I had never seen the Dylan Victoria's Secret commercial. Creepy is right. The Cadillac commercial is long and boring and talks me out of ever wanting to own the car or get an XM subscription. This campaign will fall flat on its ass.

Anonymous said...

I liked Dylan pre-exploitation. What gets me is that his is self-exploiting himself and that contradicts many of his lyrics from the sixties.

Count me disapointed.

I know he has a right to make a buck but what the....

Anonymous said...

When Mel Karmazan combines XM and Sirius you will see product placement deals everywhere. An hour of Coke songs, an hour of Pepsi songs, an hour of Chevy songs ad nauseum.

It is sad to see the music co-opted this way. It will lead to acts recording music that have some commercial theme to them so they can get airplay on Sirius-X.

Give me internet radio. They haven't messed that one up yet.

Anonymous said...

we have come a long way from when radio stations made the kinks change "coca cola" to "cherry cola" before they would play it. now it is just the opposite. since artists are so willing to sell out will the future of music be nothing but songs about products?

Anonymous said...

Positively Fourth Street, Bob.

Bob Dylan is just another show biz flack.

He reduces his talent by willingly giving away songs for a quick buck.

It is his right and he can do what he wants. That does not mean we have to like it.

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

Since when does any artist have to be a voice of a generation? We have our own voices. I have no problem with this because his music still comes from his soul, whether I like it or anyone else likes it. The caddy clip is very clever. And I can't wait to read your book John, looking forward to picking a few up at one of your upcoming book signings.