Lady Gaga continues to impress us with her costume changes. In this new photo, posted on her Web site, the pop star is clad only in (ta-da!) Hello Kitties—for a shoot celebrating the 35th anniversary campaign of the character. Leave it up to Gaga and her costume crew to think of something like this. My sister, for one, is a big Hello Kitty/Sanrio fan, and it was via her Facebook feed that we first came across this. What next for Lady Gaga and her mind-boggling wardrobe changes? (Hey, as long as they don't "malfunction," we're fine.) This one's simply Gagalicious, to quote a term in the latest Cramer-Krasselt Cultural Dictionary.
Boy, that would've been a short song if the Village People hadn't dug in their costumed heels and vowed to keep singing "YMCA" despite the Young Men's Christian Association's decision to officially shorten its brand name to "The Y." The San Francisco-bred pop collective has issued a statement saying its members are "deeply dismayed" about the name change, and they'll continue to sing all four letters—with arm movements!—at their concerts around the world. Sigh of relief! The Y now joins some other truncated, Twitter-friendly names like NPR (National Public Radio always sounded so stuffed shirt), KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken always sounded so greasy) and The Shack (RadioShack always sounded so dweeby). Chevrolet's going the opposite direction, but name shortening is officially a trend. Which brand is next, readers? Post suggestions, and make it brief.
I wanna to rock 'n' roll all night ... and gamble ev-er-y-day. Couldn't resist, folks. KISS has just signed its first licensing deal for lottery tickets. The scratchers, capturing the best of KISS face paint and pleather regalia, launch into the $225-billion-a-year global lottery industry next week. The deal between the band/pop-culture brand and the New Mexico Lottery must represent the zillionth piece of KISS merchandise, or close to it. The finely honed marketing machine that is KISS, indistinguishable from the guys who used to (and still occasionally do) play music, has always been genius about using its image to sell product. (The band has sold 80 million records, too.) This time, fans plunking down hard-earned cash for KISS swag will be contributing to the state's higher-education fund. If the tickets sell out, they'll raise about $900,000 for scholarships, New Mexico lotto officials say. If players don't pocket any of the cash prizes, they'll still have a chance to win trips to see KISS on its "Hottest Show on Earth" tour in September. KISS, which has its first new record in 11 years to promote, isn't the only band to go this route: Aerosmith did it last year with branded lottery tickets across several states. Odds are good that more of these deals are coming. Who should be next? Metallica? Bon Jovi? Extra credit for extra bad puns.
It's just not safe to feed your children junk food anymore! First, it was potentially toxic gunk on the Shrek drinking glasses from McDonald's. Now, it's racy lyrics on songs from CDs packaged with Wendy's kids meals. The latest flap erupted this weekend when some astute listener (or really bored Wendy's worker) realized that the Disco Fever CD tucked into kids meals contained the words "so horny" instead of the safe-for-everybody "so bad" in Donna Summer's classic "Last Dance." The chain quickly pulled the CD, but left in place three others containing some benign ditties and Kool & The Gang's "Celebration," which I consider more offensive than any '70s disco tune could ever be. The company issued this effusive mea culpa: "We made an honest mistake. We didn't intend for this to happen. ... We are very sorry it occurred, and we take responsibility." OK, then. Back to the fat-laden, sodium-filled business of the day!
Has it really been 40 years since Miles Davis released his groundbreaking jazz-rock album Bitches Brew? No doubt Sam Calagione, who is around 41, doesn't remember the release either, but Calagione's Dogfish Head craft beer is celebrating in grand style with a Bitches Brew brew. Rising to the occasion, Bitches Brew is "a bold, dark beer that's a fusion of three threads imperial stout and one thread honey beer with gesho root, a gustatory analog to Miles's masterpiece," according to Dogfish Head's blog, which goes on to note that it pairs well with a spicy curry or chili. Calagione goes on to confess that he got the album after college and listened to it while he was crafting Dogfish Head's business plan. Good thing he wasn't listening to Goat's Head Soup.
It's no secret that Experian is saying goodbye to its FreeCreditReport.com band. The credit bureau is searching for a replacement band as it reinvents itself as FreeCreditScore.com. The band search was announced last month, and this week 12 semifinalists have been chosen from live performances held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Visitors to FreeCreditScoreBand.com are asked to vote for four finalists. The company is accepting online video submissions through June 16—it has collected 31 so far—and bands from that pool can be voted into the final round, too. Then things will really get competitive, as Experian dangles a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to become the next face of FreeCreditScore.com, among other rewards. Based on the feedback we received to a story I wrote on Brandweek.com, consumers aren't exactly thrilled about the departure of the old band. Those guys have apparently made a long-lasting impression, and Experian must now face a bunch of unhappy groupies.
Back in 1999, I, like many people, discovered Nick Drake through a Volkswagen commercial. At the time, the carmaker had gotten some press by (imagine!) releasing its "Milky Way" ad from Arnold (posted below) on the Internet a week before it hit TV. The other thing worth noting about that spot was that it featured Drake's song "Pink Moon." At the time, Drake was a mostly forgotten British musician from the early '70s who committed suicide before he made much of an impact on the U.S. music scene, though his influence on Robert Smith of the Cure and Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian was recognized later. Since then, he's become much better known, in part because of that VW ad. Now, 11 years later, AT&T has tapped another Drake tune, "From the Morning," for its "Rethink Possible" campaign (above) from BBDO. It's a great song, but the connection with the marketer isn't quite as logical. (The ad shows fabric being draped over famous U.S. sites like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to illustrate AT&T's wireless coverage. In contrast, the VW ad was about a group of friends who were so intoxicated by the night sky that they didn't want to get out of the car and go to a party.) "Pink Moon" also had such an impact back then because it was obscure, which Drake no longer is. But there's still a lot of great '70s music out there that hasn't had its day. Agency folks, if you need help finding some of that stuff, start here.
The ever-accurate Wikipedia says that Sioux City, Iowa, was originally settled by Native Americans and visited by its first European, a French or Spanish fur trader, sometime before 1804, when Louis and Clark passed through. Wikipedia does note that Sioux City's rebirth was "built on a foundation of rock and roll," a claim bolstered by this video. "We Built Sioux City" appropriates Starship's "We Built This City," which Blender magazine named the worst song ever in 2004 (and was used previously in a Starbucks video aimed at boosting employee morale). Produced as a promotional video for an Iowa biking event whose route includes Sioux City, the video does present Sioux City as a place where pasty white people can rock out without fear. And why not? There's a lot going on. You can even ride a Zamboni around! If you have any doubts, stick around to the end, when Bret Michaels confirms that "Sioux City does rock" … to no less an interviewer than Joan Rivers.
It's already been used as an ode to partying, and responsibly taking a cab with your sloshed friends, in a Heineken commercial. Now, the old-school rap classic "Just a Friend" gets an Earth Day makeover from its creator, DJ Biz Markie, and a bunch of lip-synching, enviro-friendly folks (and one cat!). The effort comes from Repower America, a non-profit group that lobbies for clean-energy legislation. The reworking might be a little strained, but its heart sure is in the right place. Come on, everybody, sing along! "Cuz we need clean energy/Cuz we need clean energy."
Earlier this month, we wrote about Lady Gaga's latest video, "Telephone," and how it has reached new heights in terms of product placement. It's quite clear that the pop star has turned her music and personal style into a successful brand. And then her fans extend the brand with their own mashups, like this Sesame Street-themed version of the "Telephone" video, with the song blasting to images of a disco party, Bert and Ernie talking on the phone and segments from Gaga's actual video. It doesn't appear to be an official Sesame Street production, but pre-schoolers are about the only ones not getting a heavy dose of Gaga these days.