[Dixielandjazz] Comfort Food Jazz

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu May 13 08:12:06 PDT 2010

Maybe we should be playing more Rodgers & Hammerstein?

Steve Barbone

May 11, 2010 - NY Times - by Stuart Elliott
Serving Up Musical Comfort Food

MADISON AVENUE is alive with the sound of “The Sound of Music” — and  
other mainstay musicals like “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “Oklahoma”  
and “South Pacific” — as more than a dozen marketers use songs by  
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in commercials.
The rival packaged-goods giants Procter & Gamble and Unilever seldom  
agree on anything, but they are harmoniously singing the praises of  
Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Procter ran a commercial during the Vancouver Winter Olympics that  
used “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel,” while the Dove line of  
hair-care products sold by Unilever is using “My Favorite Things” from  
“The Sound of Music” for a television and online campaign that  
features Lea Michele of the hit series “Glee.”

So popular have Rodgers and Hammerstein become for advertising  
purposes that sometimes marketers are treating consumers to duets.

For instance, both Hyundai Motor America and State Farm insurance have  
run commercials that use “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from “The Sound  
of Music.” (The State Farm spot stopped at the end of March; the  
Hyundai spot is still appearing.)

To be sure, Rodgers and Hammerstein, who also collaborated on musicals  
like “Cinderella,” “Flower Drum Song” and “State Fair,” have long been  
a favorite of advertisers.

But the recent increase in the commercial use of their music — 13  
spots in the last year, by one count — seems to be taking place for  
two reasons.

One reason is a shift in the public mood because of the economy.

The familiar tunes of Rodgers and Hammerstein are “really like comfort  
food,” said Josh Rabinowitz, an expert in music in advertising, who  
described them as “comfort songs, uplifting and heartwarming.”

“In times like these, you hear a lot of anthemic music, a lot of music  
that goes for the sweet spot in consumers instead of taking a risk,”  
said Mr. Rabinowitz, senior vice president and director for music at  
the Grey Group in New York, part of WPP.

Marc Pritchard, global chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble in  
Cincinnati, agreed that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is “a little bit”  

“It’s not a modern song, but it’s a timeless song,” he said, “and it  
hits people in the heart.”

“Music is one of the most important elements you’ll use in building a  
brand because it expresses your voice,” Mr. Pritchard said. “The  
recession caused everyone to hit the reset button. People want brands  
and companies they can trust and feel good about.”

David Rubin, hair-care marketing director for Unilever in Chicago,  
said that for the consumers who are the focus of Unilever’s Dove hair- 
care-product advertising — women ages 30 and older — “The Sound of  
Music” was “part of their growing up.”

“It still resonates,” Mr. Rubin said. “I don’t know if it matters what  
decade it is.”

One reason is that the 1965 film version of “The Sound of Music” has  
become a TV perennial; ABC shows it each year around Christmas and the  
ABC Family cable channel shows it each year around Easter.

“It’s kind of corny, we admit,” Chris Perry, the interim head of  
marketing at Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, Calif., said of  
“Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” which is heard in a commercial for the  
Hyundai Sonata created by Innocean Worldwide Americas, “but the  
juxtaposition between the song and the modern-day setting gets your  

Mark Gibson, assistant vice president for advertising at State Farm in  
Bloomington, Ill., said he became aware that Hyundai was also using  
“Sixteen Going on Seventeen” when his 15-year-old daughter told him  
about it.

The State Farm commercial, by the Chicago office of DDB Worldwide,  
part of the Omnicom Group, did not use the version of the song from  
the movie soundtrack, as Hyundai’s did, but rather a rock-style  
version from a company, Modern Music, that supplies songs for  

The echoing song choice did not matter, Mr. Gibson said, because the  
State Farm spot — focused on a teenage driving safety program called  
Steer Clear — “performed very well for us; it was memorable, likable  
and catchy.”

Among the other marketers using Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are  
Microsoft, with a snippet from the title song of “Oklahoma,” in a  
commercial for the Bing search engine; Honda Motor, with “Getting to  
Know You,” from “The King and I,” in a commercial in Canada; and  
Suntory beer, with “Shall We Dance?,” also from “The King and I,” in a  
commercial in Japan.

“We do represent comfort food, in a way,” said Theodore S. Chapin,  
president at the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization in New York,  
adding that the songs are “simple, but they’re not simplistic.”

A year ago, the organization, which was founded by Rodgers and  
Hammerstein, was sold by their estates to the Imagem Music Group,  
which represents musicians as diverse as Phil Collins, Rachmaninoff  
and Vampire Weekend. That sale is another reason for the upswing in  
the licensing of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs for commercial use.

Although the songs have been heard often in commercials, “I do think  
that the sale helped advertising agencies think these songs would be  
more available than in the past,” Mr. Chapin said.

Also, the number of employees devoted to what is known as  
synchronization rights — using the music in commercials, movies and TV  
shows — increased considerably, he added.

What must accompany the “great deal of interest” in the songs, Mr.  
Chapin said, is a careful scrutiny of the requests to use them and  
working closely with those advertisers like Dove that want to rewrite  
Hammerstein’s lyrics for commercials.

Mr. Chapin discreetly declined to describe changes he has rejected,  
but pointed to “the quintessential” example of what not to do: For a  
commercial for a toilet-bowl cleaner, a song by Cole Porter became  
“I’ve Got You Under My Rim.”

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