These days, just about every TV spot for new vehicles uses some kind of licensed music. Volkswagen was one of the pioneers of this approach having turned doomed English folksinger Nick Drake’s 1972 song “Pink Moon” into something of a hit with this 1999 commercial for their Cabrio.
Volkswagen–or more specifically, their ad agency, DDB–has had much success with this approach over the years. Everyone from Kings of Leon to ELO to Stereolab have all agreed to let their music be used to sell VWs.
However, not everyone wants to play ball. DDB wanted to use the Beach House song, “Take Care” for an ad for the Polo. Beach House, though, “politely declined.” Case closed, right?
Well, not quite. DDB then when to a production house called Sniffy Dog that specializes in bespoke music with instructions to create something similar to “Take Care.” The result was a song called “Whispers and Stories.”
This isn’t illegal nor is it particularly unusual. But with licensing of music for TV commercials and important revenue stream for artists these days, this end-run feels sneaky and icky. Emimen, for example, is fighting Audi (a division of Volkswagen) over a piece of music used in an European ad that sounds suspiciously like, well, Eminem.
Just so you know what everyone is fighting about, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the songs in the Polo controversy.
First, Beach House.
Now, the Polo ad.