Product placement is a completely different story

If in cinema, series and TV programs the product placement is now widely cleared through customs, in the music we are still within one gray area: there is no regulation to follow, nor is it always clear whether the brands mentioned in this or that single have sponsored the operation to some extent. Indeed, it is not even said that they are happy with the mention; see the recent case of Shakira and hers Music Session Vol. 53in which the singer derogatorily compares the ex Piqué’s new girlfriend to a Casio watch and a Renault Twingo, forcing the social media managers of the two companies to manage a series of chain reactions.

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A widespread phenomenon

Whether companies like it or not, however, also an accomplice the dizzying rise of rap – musical genre that fills its rhymes with registered trademarks, in jargon name dropping it’s increasingly common to come across verses and choruses that resemble commercials. So how do you distinguish a simple metaphor from a real product placement? The simplest answer is: it cannot be distinguished. At the moment, unless the artists themselves (or their management) openly declare that a certain song is the result of commercial agreements, it is impossible to have a clear picture of the situation. However, it is suspected that the phenomenon is much more widespread than one thinks. Back in 2008, for example, a little storm came crashing down on the American music industry when e-mails from Kluger were leakedan agency of product placement. The owner, Adam Kluger, wrote to a denim designer because “We believe your company may be interested in participating in one brand integration campaign within a songwhich will be included in the upcoming album of one of the most famous contemporary artists in the world”. It was never clarified who the artist was or what the song was, but this simple excerpt was enough for the local antitrust company to open an investigation.

To report or not to report

be clear, product placement in music it is not covert advertising and it is not illegal per se, but according to many observers it would be better to report it in some way, just as today it is mandatory to report posts sponsored by influencers with the hashtag #ad. The thing, however, could turn out complicatedbecause often the collaborations between the brand and artist are born only after the release of the song, and not before. The best known example is My Adidas of Run-DMCs, year 1986: dedicated to the famous brand with the three stripes, of which rappers have always been fans, initially it was supposed to be a simple tribute. After their label invited the CEO to a concert at Madison Square Garden, where all the group’s fans wore Adidas clothing and they were praising a possible endorsement (shouting “Give us a million dollars!”), it turned out that the endorsement really took place. Same story for Katy Perrythat with the song Harleys in Hawaii it opened to Harley Davidson the doors of a market segment to which it had difficult access: that of young women. To cement the alliance, when it came to shoot the video clip a partnership was signed, in which Harley supplied for free the necessary motorcycles and paid his record company for the visibility he was getting.

The question marks

However, there are more dubious cases, in which it is not clear whether the chicken or the egg came first (or if there is actually an egg). The song I Don’t Give A by Madonna and Nicki Minajto name one: among the brands mentioned in the text there is Aldo, retail giant shoes. Nobody ever talked about product placement, neither Madonna’s staff nor Aldo’s; curiously though, just as the song was getting ready to come out Madonna was getting ready to debut her own footwear line Truth or Daremarketed by the Aldo Shoes company.

Even more striking episode was the one that involved Ghali a few years ago: his single Dear Italywhich later became a hit, initially made its debut in a Vodafone catchphrase commercial, and was titled simply Vodafone Shake Remix. A few weeks after the release of the commercial, it was revealed that the short jingle was part of a larger song, Dear Italy, precisely. However, the question remains, never clarified: is it the Vodafone jingle that was subsequently transformed into a song, or the song that even before being released had been optioned for the jingle? Especially since Ghali, in the following years, put his music at the service of commercials several other times: for BMW (Good Times), for McDonald’s (Wallah) and for Oreo (in this case it is a piece composed ad hoc).

The other side of the coin

As we said at the beginning, even if they are often born fruitful synergies for everyone, brands aren’t always happy to be mentioned in songs. They’d better, however, make the best of a bad situation, because complaining about the “attention” of such popular artists can turn out to be a boomerang. The CEO knows it well Crystalone of the leading champagne producers in the world, who speaking of the frequent mentions by rappers, when asked if it damaged the image of the brand, replied “Good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid them, but I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to do business with them”. The exit was not liked at all Jay-Z, who had launched a boycott campaign against Cristal, accusing the company of racism. Subsequently, Jay-Z had taken over a historic French champagne brand, Armand de Brignacrelaunching it under the name of Ace of Spades and advertising it with various quotes within his other songs, such as Kill. Today Ace of Spades it is the champagne most consumed by hip hop music listeners. Which, moreover, is currently the most listened to musical genre in the world: not a little.

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