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Music in TV Advertisements: 10 Examples of the Best and Worst

Music can be a pretty powerful thing. Who amongst us hasn’t bawled like a baby when Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” comes on? How many can resist the first few chords of “Dust in the Wind?” There’s a reason we all have earbuds and speakers at the ready!

A song can create powerful associations with an object, memory, or person, It’s the same reason why we remember the song of our first slow dance and the exact tune we belted when we were forced to do karaoke on our 21st birthday. Music is also impactful when it comes to advertising. The right song in a commercial can make you forever remember and associate with a brand.

What companies played the right tracks? Who missed a few notes? Let’s look at the best and worst uses of music in TV ads!


The Best Music Ads



#1:  Jet & Apple

Classic iPod CommercialBack before we could play music on our phones, we all relied on our handy iPods. Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” was one of the hit songs that shadow people grooved to in these classic ads. The song was upbeat enough to make you feel like dancing… and run out to buy your own iPod.



#2:  Sarah McLachlan & ASPCA

Sarah McLachlan & ASPCAPlease note: The use of music is what’s best about these ads, not the subject matter. You can’t deny the power of Sarah McLachlan’s “In The Arms Of The Angel.” The song evokes emotion, sends a powerful message, and demands a stop to animal cruelty. It also makes you really want to adopt a puppy, like now.


#3:  Haley Reinhart & Extra Gum

The Story of Sarah & JuanAh, young love! Extra Gum captured the feeling of butterflies so beautifully with Haley Reinhart’s cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The 2015 ad gives us emotional storytelling and the sweet, minty taste of youth – an innocent time when we’d ask for gum in the hallways and skip class to make-out under the bleachers.


#4:  Bob Seger & Chevrolet

Chevrolet Like a RockChevrolet wants you to know their trucks are rugged and tough. It only made sense to bring on a raspy-voiced rockstar like Bob Seger for their commercials. His classic hit “Like a Rock” is now associated with the brand, and good thing… Could you imagine if they used “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred instead? Yikes.



#5:  Snoop Dogg & Sun Drop

Sun Drop Drop It Like Its HotBefore he was in the kitchen with Martha Stewart, Snoop was all over the radio with “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”  Sun Drop’s ad shows that music can also provide humor, especially when your brand name and the song title share a key word.


Watch the full list of top music and ad pairings!


Now it’s on to the worst! While the songs themselves are great, they get ruined by their use in these lackluster ads. If these horrible music/brand pairings prove anything, it’s that even big name companies have missteps from time to time.


The Worst Music Ads


#1:  The Rolling Stones & Pepsi

Pepsi Brown Sugar CommercialEverything about this commercial is extremely annoying, most notably, the buzzing bug with the creepy Mick Jagger mouth. When it sings The Rolling Stone’s “Brown Sugar,” you immediately want to turn the volume way down. Someone grab a flyswatter!




#2:  Johnny Cash & Preparation H

Johnny Cash Hemorrhoid CreamThe Man in Black would never have wanted his work used this way. Luckily, the plug was pulled on this commercial before Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” became associated with painful hemorrhoids. Take this as an example of how not every commercial benefits from a song.




#3:  Jane’s Addiction & Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels Jane's AddictionIt sometimes pays to know the backstory of a song before you use it in a commercial. Jack Daniels learned that the hard way when they chose “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction, a song about addiction, for their commercial. Even if it’s not intentional, it comes across as insensitive.



#4:  The Zombies & Tampax

Time of the Season TampaxFor whatever reason, Tampax thought it was important for people to know they were around during the 60s hippie revolution. This fact is punctuated by the classic psychedelic tune, “The Time of the Season” by the Zombies. The song is weirdly out of place, as is the overall message.



#5:  Bill Withers & Pringles

Pringles Bill WithersJust because the Pringles can has a face, doesn’t mean it should open its mouth and sing. This is especially true if it’s going to belt out a classic like “Use Me” by Bill Withers. If your ad is going to destroy a good song, and make people think of the Pringles guy instead of Bill Withers, it’s not worth the brand boost.


Cover your ears and see all these ads in action!


According to the Stanford University School of Medicine, music engages the areas of the brain involved in paying attention. Love the songs or hate them, using music is a surefire way to get the audience to notice your ad.

Of course, it could be for all the wrong reasons. If you sell a product that’s modern, it makes sense to pair it with a current hit. However, if your product is inherently awkward, leave music out of your ad. We’re looking at you Viagra commercial that used “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley and replaced it with “Viva Viagra.” Come on now, don’t do that to the King.

Be mindful when using music in your ads, show respect to the artists, and most importantly, make sure your message makes sense.

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa loves food. A LOT. Particularly pizza and popcorn, but she knows beggars can’t be choosers. When she’s not stuffing her face (which is rare), she loves watching movies, playing volleyball and softball, and engaging in any number of interesting shenanigans. If she had to pick a spirit animal, she’d be an otter because they are playful and love to laugh. Most of the time she’s laughing at herself, whether other people are laughing with or at her is to be determined.


  1. Alex Brodsky

    For the sake of argument (since I love arguing) I’m actually going to differ on the Kia hamster commercial.

    LMFAO is a ridiculous band (if you can call them that), and this commercial makes no sense and it flat out silly. It does nothing to sell me a Kia car. And when it first came out, I despised it.


    The more I watch it, the more I accept it for being what it is: people who wanted to update the infamous “Hamster Dance”. And now that commercial kind of entertains me.

    • Amy Swanson

      Even though this commercial doesn’t do anything to sell you a Kia car, does it make you consider or remember the company? That could be an angle that their marketers were hoping to accomplish. Even though consumers aren’t rushing out to buy Soul’s, maybe these ads will work their way into their evoked set of brands when they do consider purchasing a new car.

      If nothing else, I’m glad it still entertains you, Alex! Thanks for the comment!! 🙂

    • Jen

      I agree with you Alex, it’s totally ridiculous, but I loved it from the start. It’s just so darn cute!!!

  2. Jay

    LMFAO, and their fans/anyone who illegally downloaded at least one of their songs, should all be dropped off at an El Salvadorian prison.


    • Amy Swanson

      Haha, couldn’t agree with you more, Jay!

      • Amanda

        LOL I don’t know….this is a super awesome commercial in my opinion. 😉

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I enjoyed that Old Navy commercial…the first 2 times I saw it. Then every time it came on I hated it more and more. The novelty was cute the first time, but Old Navy should’ve saved it as a one or two use commercial at best. The rest on the worst list deserve those spots. I haven’t been a fan of ANY of the Kia ads with the hamsters. They get old fast.

    I also don’t like the Cosmopolitan hotel commercial. But considering it’s infinitely better than the first two pieces of drivel they used as “advertising,” I let it slide.

    • Amy Swanson

      That’s the thing with the majority of these bad ads, they’re clever the first time and after that they get real old, real fast.

  4. Amy Swanson

    Phew! Better get my typing fingers ready to respond to this awesomely, amazing comment! 😉

    1) That Lay’s commerical drives me nuts too! Not just because of the reasons you gave but mainly because of the actress. Whoever opens up a bag of chips and smells it? No one because all you smell is this weird potato fart smell at first. It’s gross and unrealistic.

    2) I never saw this “Pink Moon” VW ad, but I recently saw an article about Chevy’s new ad being the next ‘Pink Moon’ ad. It sucks when a company uses something we love to hock their products to customers. I can only imagine how distraught I’d be if Dr. Seuss or his books were being used to sell cars. Oh wait, Honda already did that with their CR-V. No artist is safe 🙁

    3) I loved this commerical when it came out, but I completely forgot about it! Excellent addition of music being effectively used in a TV ad!! There’s an added bonus of the artist being a perfect match with the company and what they’re selling. Talk about a match made in Heaven

    4) I’m in complete agreement with your statement, “it is fine when companies use songs, just make sure what you are selling adds up to the importance of the song”. A lot of other consumers I bet would agree too!

  5. Amy Swanson

    I’d be lying if I said I never “shazamed” a song playing in the background of an ad. My google searching skills have only improved since I’ve started searching for songs with the only information I know is based on a thirty-second clip 😉

    That’s exactly what marketers aim for when they select a song in their ad. Each and every time that song comes on, regardless of the setting, your mind goes back to that product. I have a few songs from the iPod commercials a few years ago on my iPod that when I hear I instantly think of Apple.

  6. Amy Swanson

    Thanks Amanda 🙂

    I totally remember these ads as a kid! An excellent addition to the list!!

  7. Juliette

    Love this post! And I feel the need to add one of my favorites:

    Back in my first year of college (I have now officially dated myself with this mention) there was a VW commercial with a song that folks either really loved or really loathed.

    Who remembers “Da Da Da”?

    For the record, I went out and bought that group’s album that year. I still own it.

    • Juliette

      I also admit that every time that song comes up on my ipod on shuffle I feel the need to pick up random furniture from the side of the road…

  8. James Flynn

    “Crazy Train” was released in 1980. And that’s a horrible commercial because that version is horrible.

  9. lola

    theres a commercial on tv and it starts out singing ive been a poor boy and iv been ect ; and i would like to know who that is singing it

  10. DJ Jones

    The worst commercial I have ever seen was the Quiznos commercial…For some unsightly reason I just can’t see a rodent convincing me to go and get a sub sandwich. IJS

  11. Piano

    Some good ideas. Personally music lessons has always been the easiest way to make money from music. I still go out busking occasionally though too.

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