Jack White 'sells out' by recording song for Coca-Cola advertisement
Saturday 29 April 2006
As the figurehead of logo-free rock, Jack White has prospered from his image as a puritanical pop god who jealously guards the integrity of his music.
Sleepless followers of the singer and guitarist from The White Stripes are therefore likely to be disappointed when they switch on their television sets at 1.55am on Sunday and find their idol singing in a 100-second advert on Channel 4 plugging Coca-Cola.
The airing of the short film featuring Love is the Truth, the song written by White to celebrate what he calls "the greatest drink ever made by man", is the only time that the ad will be shown in Britain.
In so doing, White, 28, joins the list of A-list performers whose talent has been harnessed to boost sales of the drink, including Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Britney Spears.
The presence of White on the roll-call of commercial alliances has caused ructions in the music world with fellow musicians and some White Stripes fans.
The singer and songwriter, who is worth an estimated £20m, has previously made clear his dislike of big business by rejecting a deal to appear in a commercial for Gap, saying: "People's opinions about selling out seem to have changed over the years." Not least, it seems, his own. White confirmed recently that he had accepted the offer from Coca-Cola to write a song specifically for a global campaign to be launched this summer, entitled What Goes Around.
The Detroit-born musician shot to fame in 2001 when The White Stripes - a duo of White and his former wife, Meg - won the admiration of the late John Peel. White also has a burgeoning acting career, appearing in Cold Mountain and Coffee and Cigarettes.
The singer is also a self-confessed Coca-Cola obsessive. When a teenager, he wrote 100 short songs about the beverage. The White Stripes' dress code of only ever wearing white, red or black clothes also has obvious parallels with the world's biggest soft drink company.
White said Love is the Truth had been written specifically for Coca-Cola and he would never allow his music to be used for any other brand. Speaking to theNME, he said: "I certainly wouldn't want a song that I'd already written to be used on a commercial. But to be asked to write something particular along one theme of love in a worldwide form that I'm not really used to appealed to me."
When a 30-second version of the ad was screened in Australia, it brought a torrent of invective from the band's followers.
One entry on a fan website read: "I don't care if Jack drank so much Coke when he was a kid that it's become some sort of sentimental icon for him. But if it didn't rot his teeth then it certainly rotted the part of his mind that says you don't sell out to global corporations."
Noel Gallagher, the Oasis guitarist, said: "He's meant to be the posterboy for the alternative way of thinking. Coca-Cola man. Fucking hell. And OK, you want to spread your message of peace and love, but do us all a fucking favour. I'm just not having it. It's like doing a fucking gig for McDonald's."
But the ultimate beneficiaries of the deal will be Coca-Cola, despite the company's decision to only show the 100-second soundtrack and film, about a young girl who loses her pet bird, once to a British audience.
A Coca-Cola spokesman said: "This is the only time we plan to show the advert here. It will also be available on our website for a limited time." It is understood the limited exposure of the ad relates to a clause in White's agreement with the company restricting the number of screenings.
But marketing experts said Coca-Cola would still benefit from the kudos of being associated with a maverick talent. One London-based branding consultant, whose clients have included the soft drinks company, said: "It's a classic bit of guerrilla marketing. You limit the exposure by, in this case, only showing the ad late at night and wait for word of mouth to make the whole thing 'cool'." Whether it will lend the same attributes to White remains to be seen.
In an interview, he said: "In the end it doesn't really matter. The only thing that's going to be left is our records and photos." To that can now presumably be aded the words "and Coke ad".
Music to advertisers' ears
* ROLLING STONES
It was enough to make a grown man cry when Microsoft paid The Rolling Stones a reported $14m (£7.7m) to use "Start Me Up" as the song to launch its Windows 95 operating system.
* THE DOORS
Jim Morrison threatened to take a sledgehammer to a Buick live on stage when he heard that "Light My Fire" was to be used in an advertisement for the car-maker.
* BOB DYLAN
Dylan fans couldn't believe their ears when they heard their hero had sold the rights to "The Times They Are a-Changin" to the Bank of Montreal and the health firm Kaiser Permanente. They were further perplexed when he rocked up in a television ad for the US lingerie chain,Victoria's Secret.
Radical vegan, environmentalist and professional cause promoter, Moby, raised eyebrows when he allowed every song on his album Play to be used for advertising, which netted him more than $1m.
* NEW ORDER
It was a case of that will do nicely when American Express paid to use excerpts from "Blue Monday" in acampaign for a credit card.New Order also recorded a version for Sunkist.
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