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Songs for Screens: Hip-Hop, Sony/ATV Lead 2018 Super Bowl Ads (Watch)

Songs for Screens” (formerly known as “Synch This”) is a Variety column written by Andrew Hampp, a VP at New York-based music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents and former branding correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.

Hip-hop had a major commercial breakthrough in 2017 after becoming the most-consumed genre in popular music for the first time ever last July, according to Nielsen Music. And during Sunday night’s Super Bowl LII, hip-hop enjoyed the next level of commercial breakthrough – a record number of songs and artists from the genre appeared in popular ads during TV’s most-watched event.

Rappers Cardi B, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott appeared in popular spots for Amazon and Doritos & Mtn Dew, respectively, which featured their music, while Big Sean and Iggy Azalea both made surprise appearances alongside their synchs in spots for Quicken Loans and Monster Electronics. And on the synch-only side, Scottish DJ-producer Sam Gellaitry won big by scoring the soundtrack for Diet Coke’s first Super Bowl spot in 21 years, showcasing the brand’s Twisted Mango flavor.



“Overall, it was a great year for licensed music, with a healthy mix of catalog and frontline songs being used in big brand spots,” says Jeannette Perez, president of global synch and brand partnerships at Kobalt Music, who helped place five Kobalt writers in spots this year including Gellaitry for Diet Coke and Kesha’s “Boogie Feet” for Pepsi. “However, between [Cardi B’s] ‘Bodak Yellow’ in Amazon, [Chris Brown’s] ‘Look At Me Now’ in Doritos, [Missy Elliott’s] ‘Get Ur Freak On’ in Mountain Dew, [Sam Gellaitry’s] ‘Long Distance’ in Diet Coke and [Big Sean’s] ‘Bounce Back’ in Rocket Mortgage, among others, hip-hop was the big winner this year. Each of those spots featured the songs alongside great creative, which not only elevated the campaigns but also placed the spots squarely into today’s hip-hop driven pop culture.”

Among all publishers, Sony/ATV booked the most synchs with 10 songs placed in brand commercials that aired nationally during the game. Highlights included writers Will Powers and Sting’s cult hit “Adventures In Success” for Squarespace’s Keanu Reeves-starring spot, Ben E. King, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller’s Budweiser remake of “Stand By Me” and Dodge RAM’s Vikings-themed ad that utilized Queen’s lesser-known “fast” version of “We Will Rock You,” recorded for the BBC in 1977.

Universal Music Publishing Group helped place eight, including Big Sean’s “Bounce Back” for Quicken Loans and Keith Sweat’s “Nobody” for AmazonIndie publisher BMG also landed eight placements, including two major looks for its clients Aerosmith and Nirvana with Kia and T-Mobile, respectively. “This year’s Super Bowl saw a rich pairing of BMG’s frontline and iconic catalog spots with celebrities taking a more visible role in commercials such as Steven Tyler in KIA, as well as an overall sense of nostalgia and hope,” says Alex Flores, BMG’s senior VP of marketing, commercials, film and television, who noted that this year’s negotiations were particularly frantic. “Even up until Saturday evening we were still negotiating a handful of spots that were set to air during the Super Bowl.” Healthy ad budgets and usages that were contracted for up to one year of TV and online airings helped the top five music publishers post year-over-year revenue increases as high as 25%, while pricing for individual synchs this year varied from $100,000 to upwards of $750,000, depending on length of use, previous licenses for the song and notoriety of the artist.


Tom Eaton, senior VP of music for advertising at UMPG, applauded marketers to taking a few creative risks. “From current hits and breakthrough talent, to past classics and under-the-radar international acts, the spectrum of UMPG songs used in Super Bowl syncs this year is an outstanding reflection of the strength and diversity of our catalog,” he says.

Thirty-second spots for this year’s game sold for a record $5 million apiece, and finally sold out Friday night, as Variety previously reported. But many marketers took advantage of NBC’s flexible ad lengths, which went as short as :6 – most notably Tide, who aired over a half-dozen commercials of varying runtimes throughout the night featuring “Stranger Things” star David Harbour.

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