Beyonce may have been the runaway winner of the Pepsi Halftime Show, with her surprise announcement of The World Formation Tour, but what about the ads? The top four music publishers reported another banner year in commercial “synch” licenses, with nine for Sony/ATV, seven for Warner/Chappell (plus two pre-game spots), nine for Universal Music Publishing Group and at least three for Kobalt Music Group, marking another record year for the publishing industry in both volume and revenue.
Classic rock had perhaps the most standout presence, with two spots for Sony/ATV signees Queen (Honda’s sheep symphony of “Somebody To Love” and Hyundai’s Kevin Hart-starring “Another One Bites The Dust” ad), a Skittle-loving Steven Tyler (ole’s “Dream On”), a featured role for Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” in Heinz’s “Weiner Stampede” (from Kobalt writers Pete Ham and Tom Evans, of Badfinger) and rare synchs for Van Halen (Warner/Chappell’s “Running With The Devil,” for Acura) and David Bowie (Audi’s “Starman” tribute.)
“From the standpoint of sheer impact and connecting with a large-scale audience, the strength of rock and a powerful song was really felt this year,” says Ron Broitman, Warner/Chappell’s exec VP-head of synchronization.
Active singles and frontline artists saw lots of success, too. Two artists premiered new songs in campaigns that synched with their launch on music services – Missy Elliott’s “Pep Rally” for Amazon (with fellow Sony/ATV writer/producer Pharrell Williams), and newcomer Clairity’s stirring cover of Halftime headliners (and UMPG writers) Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic.” Current top 40 hits from Demi Lovato (“Confident,” for PayPal) and Drake (“Hotline Bling” for T-Mobile) also had strong showings. Perhaps most notably, Jeff Lynne’s much-synched Electric Light Orchestra had a narrative role in a Hyundai spot built not around one of the group’s classic hits like “Mr. Blue Sky,” but rather a recent track (“When I Was A Boy”) from the group’s 2015 release Alone In The Universe.
“It was exciting to see brands look deep into the catalog, as well as have things written around newer songs from Drake and Jeff,” says Sony/ATV’s exec VP of commercial music Brian Monaco.
Jeep’s “4x4ever” was a surprise highlight: It was by far the most Shazam’ed song of the game thanks to its original lyrics from Morgan Dorr, bass player of pop-punk act Boys Like Girls and lead singer of Best Of Friends. This wasn’t Dorr’s first shot at the Super Bowl: he was one of the few Sony/ATV songwriters who participated in a songwriting and recording camp for Jeep’s 2015 spot, which ultimately went to singer-songwriter Marc Scibilia’s cover of “This Land Is Your Land.” For this year’s Jeep ad, Monaco paired Dorr with copywriters from Chicago ad agency DDB. “We spent two weeks in the studio getting it right,” he says.
In addition to Drake and Missy Elliott, hip-hop had several high-profile looks this year, from Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” for Persil ProClean detergent, to the Beastie Boys’ musical cameo in a trailer for the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, to Prius’ extensive use of the ‘60s instrumental “Apache,” which became the basis of hits for Sugarhill Gang as well as Sir Mix-A-Lot. (UMPG’s Future got a pre-game boost from Beats, too, which featured “Fly Shit Only” from the prolific rapper’s 24-hour-old album Evol, as did Flo Rida, whose “My House” was heard in Pizza Hut spots throughout the day on CBS.)
Ad time for this year’s Super Bowl, which aired on CBS, soared to a reported record of $5 million for 30-second spots (up from $4.5 million in 2015), and synch rates stayed healthy for writers and artists, too. Sony/ATV’s Monaco confirms that several synch licenses cross the $1 million mark this year. “There were a lot of one-year deals, and budgets that coincided with that. It’s nice to see the brands go back to longer-term deals — you get to have that longer-lasting effect of people hearing that song a lot,” he says.
Andrew Hampp is a vice president at music experiential and sponsorship agency MAC Presents.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.