From The Beatles to Jay-Z: the 10 best songs used in ads
Steve’s breakdown: We shared the worst songs to ever appear in ads. Now, here are some of the most inspired tracks used to sell everything from cars and kicks to California raisins.
Pressing play on the right track for an ad ain’t easy / Credit: Adobe Stock
A great song in an ad can make it, well, great. But far too often, the selections are just plain tone-deaf. Here are 10 of the very best songs used in ads, according to top experts and The Drum editors.
10. First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes for Zillow
Selecting this depressing Conor Oberst indie track was an inspired choice by Zillow. It packs a lot of emotion into a 30-second spot that fairly accurately encapsulates what it feels like to pick your first home.
9. Like A Rock by Bob Seger for Chevrolet
For many, images of Chevy pickups dance through their heads every time this song comes on the classic rock radio station. That’s powerful.
8. She’s A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones for Dior
“There is so much joy in this song, and it brought the ad to life,” says Matthew Scott, creative director at the Badger Agency. “Perfect example of the ad being a vehicle for a song and vice versa. The emotion was perfect.”
7. ’03 Bonnie & Clyde by Jay-Z for Airbnb
“This is my favorite song in an ad, and in every spot from this loveable Airbnb campaign the track was purposefully ‘on the nose’ to the concept,” says Robyn Tenenbaum, creative director and copywriter at Butler, Stern, Shine and Partners.
6. If You Love Me by Lizzo for Google Pixel 6
Shooting up the charts is a powerful song for a powerful product that debuted during the 2022 Super Bowl. “The message of the song and the technology all just blended seamlessly,” says Badger Agency’s Scott.
5. The Choice Is Yours (Revisited) by Black Sheep for Kia Soul
Life is a hamster wheel. Same routine every day. That is, of course, until you buy a Kia Soul to spice things up. This hip-hop track made this Super Bowl spot iconic while placing hamsters – and Kia – in a whole new light.
4. 1234 by Feist for Apple iPod Nano
“This was one of the songs that established Apple as a music tastemaker using the iPod as a music platform,” says Paul Greco, executive director of music and audio at Wunderman Thompson New York. “The song is pretty and catchy and, most importantly, it fits Apple’s brand personality as a company that breaks norms.”
3. I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye (performed by The California Raisins) for Sun-Maid Raisins/The California Raisin Advisory Board
If you were alive in the eighties, you probably owned a plastic California raisin figurine or some other merch based on the success of this commercial. The ad begat a primetime special and a Saturday morning cartoon, and the track itself broke into the Billboard 100 (at least for a short while). These singing Claymation raisins were a cultural phenomenon.
2. Revolution by The Beatles for Nike
This easily could have been Beatles blasphemy, but Nike’s first ad worked. It was arresting, shocking and awesome to hear this song hit the (TV) airwaves. This (very dated) ad, created by a no-name agency – at the time – called Wieden+Kennedy, helped make Nike the billion-dollar brand it is today.
1. Pink Moon by Nick Drake for Volkswagen
“Man, when I first saw the Nick Drake track against this Volkswagen spot, it triggered every emotion,” says Jack Epsteen, senior vice-president, director of production at GSD&M. “I wasn’t familiar with the track, but I immediately started listening to him like everyone else. It set the bar for music usage for sure.”