In recent years, the formerly coveted UK Number 1 slot has lost some of its lustre and this isn’t solely down to the inevitability of it going to whoever happens to win The X Factor that year. The music industry have collectively set their sights on what is proving to be a far more lucrative prize: getting their artists and tracks from their back catalogues placed in the biggest TV adverts of the festive period.
Music synchronisation (placing songs in ads, television programmes, films and games) for Christmas adverts are increasingly becoming landmark opportunities for record companies both in terms of marketing and sales. Due to the dramatically transformation in the way we consume music that has taken place in the past couple of years due to the rise in popularity of streaming services such as Spotify, declining album sales, and downloads proving no match for the glory days of physical sales, record companies have had to identify new revenue streams and sync-licensing is rapidly becoming one of the most important.
John Lewis’s Christmas television spot has become the benchmark for all seasonal advertising (it’s certainly the only advert that requires an ad to announce when it will be aired) and their choice of soundtrack has been vital to their success. The song that provided the soundbed for their 2012 advert, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love, rocketed straight to number one and helped launch Gabrielle Aplin’s career.
As it has cemented its place as an annual national institution, the weight of expectation has meant that the advertising agency have had to put even more care into making sure each element is perfect and competition among record companies to get their music features is becoming ever more intense: sourcing the music for this year’s ad started as early as August.
2013’s soundtrack choice has been even more popular than previous years boasting an impressive 9,899,877 views on Youtube. As well as striking the perfect tone for the ad’s animated visual content, Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know (released on Itunes at midnight on the evening of the first broadcast) has the virtue of being able to appeal to all age groups - with pester power no doubt contributing to the astounding tie-in merchandise sales.
The song already exceeded 229,000 sales and has acted as the perfect springboard for Allen’s career post-pregnancy relaunch and her involvement has allowed her to reposition her appeal to a more adult audience.
Other artists that have profited from inclusion in Christmas adverts this year have ranged from the obvious (Wizzard, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart) to the unexpected, with Bronski Beat having their 1984 hit Smalltown Boy currently soundtracking the Boots ad.
As brands and advertisers up their game, in terms of dynamic music selection, in attempt to keep up with John Lewis’s Christmas marketing prowess, the trend will ensure that those involved in the music synchronisation will have something under their trees on Christmas morning for some time yet with even more esteemed artist potentially hopping on the Christmas ad bandwagon.