When Linda Perry was looking for a way to promote 13-year-old singer/songwriter Willa Amai, her guiding principle was, “You have to think a little left field.”
Perry was one of five participants in the “Commercial Synchs of the Year” panel (presented by Pepsi) at Variety’s inaugural Music for Screens Summit, in which executives, producers and talent reps presented case studies exploring the most successful commercial synchs in the last year. Her singer/songwriter/producer’s company We Are Hear earned top honors for its Quickbooks spot, which featured Amai’s cover of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” along with a backstory supporting small independent businesses. The award was voted on by attendees at the daylong conference.
Others represented on the panel included Portugal. The Man manager Rich Holtzman (Vitaminwater’s use of “Feel It Still”), Seventeenfifty/Capitol Music Group SVP Brian Nolan (Migos’ “Stir Fry” NBA spot), Good Ear Music supervisor Andrew Kahn (The Gap’s “Megamix” campaign) and Kobalt Music President Global Synch & Brand Partnerships Jeanette Perez (content strategy company Copilot’s “Take Me Home (Country Roads)” for the video game “Bethesda Fallout ’76”).
Perry originally had Amai play a showcase for top ad agency Chiat Day, which made her the centerpiece of its Quickbooks campaign. “You need the right timing, the right song, the right eyes and ears,” said Perry, who saw Amai’s social media profile soar after the commercial began airing.
Holtzman pointed out that Portugal. The Man’s hit “Feel It Still” ended up with more than 100 synchs, “launching the song into a whole other stratosphere,” including a rare crossover Top 40 pop hit for a rock track. “The Vitaminwater spot created a familiarity and opened the door to different radio formats.”
“It’s a good synch because it’s such a feel-good song,” admitted Perry.
“I wish it were mine,” joked Perez.
Nolan traveled to Atlanta to pitch TBS on Migos’ “Stir Fry” for their NBA coverage by playing an early version of the song and introducing them to the band. “You have to hustle, be pro-active,” he explained. “You can’t just sit behind a computer screen and wait for things to come to you.”
Kahn’s “Megamix” spots for Gap took the brand back to its ‘90s and early 2000s white-screen campaigns with a series of spots that included Labi Siffre’s 1975 nugget “I Got The…” which was sampled by Eminem for “My Name Is…,” and Janelle Monae’s cover of Freddie Scott’s 1968 hit, “(You) Got What I Need.”
“It’s important as a supervisor to use music thoughtfully, to present the right song in the right context,” he says.
Perez then pointed out Kobalt’s commitment to catalog artists in securing a commercial synch for John Denver’s 1971 ode to West Virginia for the latest iteration of Bethesda’s “Fallout” series, which references the state’s folklore for its monster characters.
“Video games are really making a strong statement in terms of being a creative medium,” she says.
The panel concluded with an unexpected a capella performance by Perry, who led a sing-along for “Get Up and Vote,” a song she co-wrote with John Legend, timed for the upcoming election.