}

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Weekend Diversion: More ad music


The video above is a current television ad for AMI Insurance, which had been a New Zealand mutal (policyholder-owned) insurance company until the NZ government forced a sale after losses caused by the Christchurch earthquakes destabilised the company. The company has been running a series of ads, many of them very vague ads that, like this one, don’t promote insurance products directly.

Once again, it was the music used in the ad that caught my attention.

The song is called “Where I’m From” [LISTEN], a 1993 song by Digable Planets, an American hip hop trio. The song peaked at number 60 on the US R&B chart, and number 7 on the US Rap chart. It doesn’t seem to have charted anywhere else, but it sounds like something that could have been popular in New Zealand at the time, particularly among Māori and Pacific Islands youth. Its feel reminds me of Sisters United “In The Neighbourhood” (I shared the video for that last month). At any rate, that’s why I noticed it.

I used Shazam to find out what the song was—one of the few times that’s actually worked with a song in a commercial, actually, mostly because the music used is often from stock agencies, not actual pop music. One other time it worked was for a KFC ad I shared last month, and I was reminded of that because it also had some problematic lyrics.

Mostly, the lyrics to “Where I’m From” “speak in ghetto tongue”, to quote a lyric not in the ad, and there’s a lot of talk about drugs and other things one would think wasn’t suitable for a TV ad. But, then, most people have never heard the song, and even fewer would ever bother to find out more about it, let alone find the lyrics. I just can’t help being, um, unique.

The thing about music in ads is that it’s almost never the point—it really is just the background to the visuals and any text or narration. Very often it’s so much in the background that we don’t even notice it, but other times it’s forward enough to be noticed, as it was in the KFC ad and this one. For most of us most of the time, that’ll be the end of it, and of our interest. Sometimes, though, there’s something that catches us, and then the advertiser wins. Well, technically, we do, too, when we learn something we didn’t know before. I’d never heard of “Where I’m From” or Digable Planets, but now, thanks to that ad, I have.

I don’t have any insurance with AMI, and I don’t plan on having any with them any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be intrigued by their ad. Once again, though, it was the music used in the ad that caught my attention, not precisely what the ad was promoting. But if ad creators get us to pay attention to their ad at all, that has to be a win. Because no one can tell where watching an ad might lead.

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