GUITAR in TV COMMERCIALS
A long, chequered history of using guitarists in TV Commercials
From the moment I picked up a guitar, I always wanted to play the blues. Something in me at a young age somehow picked up on this thing called the blues and was fascinated. But where did this come from?
Cool TV commercials with burning guitarists! I watched in awe as these guys got the girl, looked cool, displayed their genius and drank their Coca Cola..
Remember the Coca Cola ad where the guy walks into a band audition and picks up a Coke while he waits and we have the inevitable opening of the bottle, reassuring sound of pop and fizz and what looks like the most refreshing sup of a drink a man ever had. Then someone in the room asks “hey, are you gonna drink or play” and obviously the guitarists then uses the very Coke bottle to play slide guitar and wow the whole room, including the beautiful girls just hanging out, drinking their Cokes (obviously)
But it was actually the Budweiser ad of a guy playing slide guitar over slo-mo shots of Budweiser flowing out of the top of a bottle that did it for me. That got me hooked. I just had to learn to play guitar like that.
I wrote a blog post about how frequently guitar and famous guitarists (Les Paul, Peter Frampton jamming for a Geico ad!!) have been used to promote products. If you like looking at old commercials, you’ll love this.
You're in - The Coca Cola guitar audition
Guy walks into a band audition and picks up a Coke while he waits. We have the inevitable opening of the bottle, reassuring sound of pop and fizz and what looks like the most refreshing sup of a drink a man ever had.
In the english version of the ad, one of the band members asks the guitarist if he is ready. In the German version, he asks “hey, are you gonna drink or play?” Obviously a much better line as the passive aggressive tone opens up the tension which is resolved when this guy blows the room away.
Our guitar hero uses the Coke bottle in question to play slide guitar and wow the whole room, including the beautiful girls just hanging out, drinking their Cokes (obviously). Therein lies the beauty of the ad – our hero wasn’t wasting time drinking coke. He was simply picking up his guitar slide (which happened to have delicious Coke in it). No time wasting just cold, calculated preparation, you see.
Pepsi Response: Exploding bottles
We all know at this stage that Coke and Pepsi not only sell sugary water, but also exist to push each other into ever higher stakes of corporate and marketing excellence. Or whatever. But if Coke are going to use burning guitar solos, you can expect Pepsi to follow suite and they did with this commercial featuring the guitar playing of Vinnie Moore (actor is actually Derry Grehan from Honeymoon Suite so the guitar playing is overdubbed).
The plot is that by shredding the guitar so hard, the pressure builds up in the room and you can feel this viscerally – even the cat jumps to the window ledge – and eventually the bottles of Pepsi find their bottle tops just popping off. I think they miss a trick here where if there was no bottle opener and. the shred guitar was a solution that that, you might have a better story. But hey. Pepsi is the Choice of A New Generation as they say in the closing seconds so being cool, daring and explosive seems to tie in nicely with the 80s era.
The Coolest: Budweiser Ad
The ad with the most authentic, coolest-sounding guitar playing was the Budweiser ad. It was this that got me hooked.
I remember at the time thinking this is the coolest thing ever. And it is marketing genius. Budweiser wants to be an American brand and they appropriate electric blues guitar playing to that end – and we figure them for the slow-mo mix of frothing bud and tweed amps and just sit back and enjoy the playing
Honorable Mention: Les Paul
Obviously Les Paul is cool. He was a genuinely gifted guitarist and he invented the Les Paul guitar. Kudos.
In this ad, he takes the guitar from a young, chisel-jawed hunk playing the blues and asks if he can play. He then burns out some licks while the young hunk nods approvingly and says “cool”.
He asks “hey what’s your name” and Les quips “it’s written on your guitar” because obviously the young dude was playing a Les Paul guitar. It’s cheesy but the cheese somehow works and there is something comforting about the old dog showing up the young pup.
Dishonorable Mention: Peter Frampton
I like Peter Frampton. I have a vinyl of him and the Bee Gees covering the Sargeant Peppers material of the Beatles and it’s incredible.
However, this ad is a dud. I am loathe to describe it too much but as a woman tells a story, he replies with guitar riffs and a vocoder and it’s just lame. What was he thinking? Cold, hard cash probably but honestly who knows?
Guitar in TV commercials is a legacy of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Budweiser ad may have been the clip I saw (this is pre YouTube) that really made me in awe of guitar.
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