The last time Mars Wrigley’s Extra gum debuted an original ad campaign with original music, 2015’s “The Story of Sarah & Juan,” the spot achieved a rare made-for-synch trajectory for its custom cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by former “American Idol” contestant Haley Reinhart.
Reinhart’s romantic, vocals-and-piano version of the Elvis Presley classic was certified gold a year after the campaign’s initial release, and in turn helped the spot create such a strong following among consumers that it aired on U.S. television and in other mediums for more than three years. In fact, “Sarah & Juan” was still running as recently as April 7, and to date has received more than 66,000 airings, with an estimated ad spend of $90.7 million, according to marketing analytics firm iSpot.TV. The campaign also contributed to a windfall in sales for Extra, which last year became the highest-selling gum brand in the U.S. for the first time since 2005, according to Nielsen Media Research.
For its latest campaign, the multi-generational friendship story “Max & Bill,” Extra and its ad agency Energy BBDO continue to feature music as a third character to help introduce the newly launched Extra Refreshers. This time, U.K. pop/soul artist Jacob Banks is the vocalist for an emotional cover of Jose Gonzalez’s “Every Age,” which soundtracks a chess game that embodies human connection. The 2-minute spot debuted Monday (April 22) on Extra’s YouTube channel, with a :60 version set to begin airing this week on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today,” select prime-time series and in cinemas, with a series of three :15 spots to air across broadcast and cable for the next year.
The Extra campaign is the latest project Banks has taken on in the film, TV & commercial synch realm, having contributed to November’s “Creed II” soundtrack as well as “For The Throne,” an “inspired by” companion album to “Game of Thrones” out this Friday (April 26.) Like Rinehart’s take on Elvis, Banks’ interpretation of “Every Age” is an intimate, stripped-down ballad that’s a departure from the booming, full-bodied soul on his 2018 major label debut “Village.”
“So much of being an artist involves so much of yourself, so I very much like to step out of being ‘Jacob Banks’ as much as I can,” the singer says on the phone from London. “I like to work with visuals and lend my skills to help someone else’s vision come to life. When I saw the film, I loved how it transcends color and age, it was about how everyone just wants to be seen. I’ve always been a fan of [‘Every Age,’] and I felt it told the story of the film the best.”
Banks and “Every Age” were cherry-picked by Extra and Energy BBDO from dozens of other options while the spot was being filmed. “Once we heard what Jacob came back with in his version of the song, it was no contest for us,” says Justin Hollyn-Taub, Extra’s marketing director. “We knew his voice provided a soulful and positive, yet introspective take to create an emotional and uplifting soundtrack for Extra Refreshers gum.”
Though Extra has a promising track record for fusing music with emotional storytelling, Banks is hedging his own expectations for the potential new audiences that may discover him through “Max & Bill.” “For me, it’s just something I’m proud of, whether it changes my life or it doesn’t,” he says. “What I loved about the story is they saw each other, and that to me is what we’re missing so much as a race of human beings right now. Come what may, but that will always be what moves me the most.”
Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV.