Auto Tuned: cars and music video product placement

Music videos, stripped from our TV airwaves in the great broadcast music TV cull of the last decade, are thriving online, steadily racking up millions (and even billions) of views.

As ever, effective music videos are not cheap to put together and, with the music industry continuing to watch its purse strings, a little bit of financial assistance from brands is now de rigueur. So much so that product placements are now a somewhat fundamental part of the overall creative process.

Placements themselves are nothing new (80’s hair metal band Autograph gave pen manufacturer Paper Mate a starring role in their music video at the very onset of MTV in 1984), but the level of involvement has ramped up dramatically over the years.  For example, we’ve noticed a considerable rise in the number of instances of automotive product placement in music videos of late, as the major brands jostle for the attention of the young Millennial car buyer. 

With the auto industry making a concerted effort to form a bond with an increasingly hard to capture youth market through a variety of entertainment platforms, music videos offer a level of permanency that straight out ads can't - a little slice of music currency that provides both longevity and an emotional bookmark for the brand.

With this in mind, play spot the car as we highlight a handful of prominent automotive product placements from across the globe…

Citroen - The Saturdays

Citroen UK manages to leverage some room in the latest music video from The Saturdays – which is heavily peppered with Swarovski jewellery throughout – to showcase its new DS3 Cabrio.

The Desperate Housewives pastiche couriers in the girl’s male alter egos mid way through the song, aligning the brand squarely with the group’s young 18-35 female audience.

It's not the first time the brand has dropped its product into a music video (a notable inclusion mas made in Pixie Lott’s 2010 track ‘Broken Arrow’). However, this most recent product placement is part of a much broader deal with Universal music that will see Citroen placed in a total of 6 music videos from the label’s female stars over the coming year. A major commitment from the brand that is testament to the ongoing influence of music videos online.

Volvo - Swedish House Mafia

Volvo follows an on-going trend for music videos that are developed in partnership between the artist and brand, a somewhat more considered and credible route that has been spearheaded by the likes of Fiat (with Faithless) and Jaguar (with Lana Del Ray), developing new content where the brand can play a starring role.

The video, a reworking of the early Swedish House Mafia track ‘Leave the World Behind’, sees the group - who recently announced a split at the apex of their careers - going their separate ways in the newly launched Volvo XC60. It’s a clever mash up of branded content and product placement that taps directly into the group’s loyal fan base, with plenty of additional digital content (a dedicated website, behind-the-scenes footage) backing up the on screen action. 

Toyota - HyunA

South Korean K-Pop idol HyunA - most famous in the West for appearing in PSY’s 'Gangham Style' video - recently added to her long line of endorsement deals by teaming up with Toyota to act as a spokesmodel for the brand.

A central part of the ‘Your K-Pop Stage with Hyuna’ campaign saw the creation of a bespoke music video, featuring prominent product placement of the Toyota Corolla. In addition to the stand alone video, fans could also insert themselves via Facebook into the wider narrative, with the singer picking participants up in a shiny new vehicle to run a series of errands and take them to the studio.  

With brand endorsements built into the career plan of K-Pop artists from their inception and fans expecting artists to actively promote products, the credibility issue that often plagues brand partnerships in the West just doesn’t exist out East. Brands are viewed as a genuine gateway between artist and fan and Toyota plays into this role perfectly here. 

Fiat - Adriana Ft Pitbull

If you feel strongly about subtlety when it comes to music video integration, then you’d best look away now, as this recent musical homage to the automobile sector is anything but low key. The video that accompanies the track, ‘Sexy People (The Fiat Song)’ - a meld of Pitbull’s suited rap swagger and the dulcet tones of Italian chanteuse Arianna - plays out across a tropical paradise, complete with a healthy smattering of celebrity cameos from the likes of Charlie Sheen, Shaggy and American Footballers Dwayne Bowe and Dez Bryant. 

Somewhat inexplicably for a video set largely on the water, Fiat is prominent throughout (driven across the bottom of the ocean, catapulted into the air, and surfacing on the beach front).  And, in case you should miss it, the brand even gets a name check in the song title. It shouldn’t work on paper, but due to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the video (and its intention to be more meme than pop video) it somehow gets away with it all, creating a fun, vibrant  - and very honest - placement. 

Mini - Mika

Mika, remember him? Well apparently he’s back. This time reworking his already reworked version of the track ‘Popular’ from the musical Wicked into an anti-bullying chant, with added assistance from US tween songstrel of the moment Adriana Grande.

The video, which sees Mika back at school (despite being 30), is more than happy to drop the odd product placement into the mix. The obligatory ‘checking my mobile’ shot comes courtesy of Sony Xperia and Mika’s recent tie up with Swatch provides an overt moment of turquoise wrist candy. However, it’s Mini who steals the product placement show here, as the song literally stops for Mika to address a talking vehicle (referring to it as ‘Coops’) before he’s sets off to perform a Medusa style act on his schoolmates. Again, it's fairly blatant, but Mini pulls it off due to the quirky nature of the story and the brand's already well established credentials for being knowingly comedic and lighthearted in its wider advertising. 

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