In a guest column, music-meets-brands strategists citizensound.net ponder the pitfalls of Iggy Pop's appearance in a recent car insurance advert...
Iggy Pop the icon. The man and the myth are indivisible. But does his appearance in recent car insurance advert, where he extols the benefits of insurance company Swiftcover, damage his legend or conversely do anything to sell the advertised product?
First, we ask ourselves, why choose Iggy?
The connection between Iggy and the Motor City of Detroit is surely too obscure a link. Celebrity endorsement maybe, but surely only a few music fans in the UK will know who he is. And if you knew anything about the man, would you trust someone who rolled around in broken glass, exposed himself at gigs and vomited on stage to recommend you car insurance? In reality, all Swiftcover wanted was an advert that would "create great stand out in this highly competitive marketplace." They wanted a freak, and they got one of the best in the business: Little Jimmy Osterburg from Ann Arbor, Michigan who created a character, Iggy Pop, and continues to play the part through thick and thin.
So, was Iggy wise to take the money and run?
A dodgy ad on UK TV is no more likely to damage him than the years of self-abuse, the ravages of time or (really) bad record reviews. For Iggy, it's a drop in the proverbial ocean. He got paid and, as the song says, all he wants is a 'Real Cool Time'. Which in a sense, is consistent in the hyper-reality that has been his life.
Now for the fans.
Well, there are those die-hards who are predictably outraged, claiming that he's 'tainted' his status as a living Rock God, the original Punk Rocker. Yet, in the eyes of the critics, and his less blinkered fans, he hasn't made a truly great album in decades. The classic Stooges records still sell, but who's clamouring to buy the majority of his solo back-catalogue? Even 62-year-old punk legends need to live.
Myths in rock are most easily perpetrated when icons die young or grow old gracefully. The very things that make an artist attractive in youth – arrogance, cockiness and intransigence - can create a problem for fans when in a second or third incarnations they end-up, like John Lydon, in celebrity reality TV shows, or making corny butter commercials. But at the end of the day, if their celebrity can contribute to their retirement fund, why worry?
What's really at stake here for the fans, being guardians of their own memories, is that nostalgia, by its very nature, is extremely alluring. Everybody likes to revisit their youth and reconnect with those bonds and associations that helped them define their identity. They don't want their heroes in television adverts for insurance.
And here is where the problem lies for the car insurance company and their ad agency. By disrupting this unwritten contract between rebel and his audience, and their remembered ownership of those times, the ad will turn off some of the target audience for the product that they were hoping to attract.
Recent studies on product placement in films have shown that where the product is not relevant to the narrative of the story, or is not an integral part of the make up of the identity of the character, it doesn't provoke interest or the kind of response that advertisers are hoping for. The law of alignment works when the product being advertised has some kind of shared resonance with the film, or in this case the artist that is being used to create the impact. The right kind of artist placement can work wonders for a brand in terms of increased coverage where the fit is good and there are either real or perceived shared values.
Sure, in a very crowded market place that is TV ads for car insurance, the Iggy Pop ad gets your attention. Yet it is hard to remember the specific company he's advertising, because he is more memorable than the company he's advertising. The fit of product and artist does not amplify the message being put across unlike the raw power of Iggy and his Stooges, who were always amplified to the maximum volume.
This column was by citizensound.net