Another week of Heroes, another random pop-culture observation. I was zoning out, checkin' out Facebook and reading about Bayesian networks (yeehaw!), when I heard a familiar sounding riff emanating from my TV. It was "I Think I Need a New Heart", by the Magnetic Fields, a thoroughly awesome song off an amazing album (69 Love Songs, if'n you didn't know). I looked up to figure out what august product was deserving of so stellar a song. After a few moments of random text blurbs and shots of dogs, it became clear that this was a commercial for a dog-food commercial. That's right, a song all about the waning of love and the death of passion in a relationship has been appropriated to promote the diffusion of tasty doggy snacks.
I mean, I'm not bothered by music I like being used in commercials -- I'm happy that people at a soulless advertising agency have decent taste in music, and I'm not going to begrudge Stephin Merritt and friends the chance to make some money spreading decent music to the world. I was just confused, though. The lyrics of the song aren't at all relevant to dogs, or even food (if they'd used "Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long", I might understand). Not even that, but the ad doesn't even use the lyrics -- the only thing it really makes use of is the (admittedly catchy) riff that opens up the song.
I would think it'd be significantly cheaper to just hire some random composer dude to write something for the ad than to pay for an existing, reasonably-well-known pop song. But, as I write these sentences, I realize that the song has to be much less well-known than I think (quick poll -- have you heard of it?), and it's probably more expensive to hire a commissioned musician than I think. Plus, there's the same effect that you have with obscure jokes -- most people don't enjoy it, but there's the one person who gets the joke (or knows the song) and really, really loves it. Something like this, perhaps. So maybe they're banking on the few 20-something hipster types who own little yappy dogs watching the ad and totally changing their product loyalties, just like that. It's bound to have happened at least once, right?