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Advert Music: A Review Of The Best TV Ad Songs Ever!

Photograph of the blog post author, Andy Martin

Andy Martin


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The use of music in audio-visual advertising is the rule, rarely the exception. So let’s dive right in and take a look at our picks of the most famous advert music! 

Advert Music

History Of Advert Music

During the 1970s, cinemas were the premier platforms for advertising companies such as Pearl and Dean. The use of stereo and quadraphonic surround sound was given free reign. This was in order to draw the audience into an immersive advertising experience. 

Complete with the sound of straws noisily sucking on the last millimeter of orange juice to a cacophony of scrunched sweet bags in unison or chewing gum splats stuck to the back of the seat in front! At least Drive-Ins made these de riguer experiences avoidable. 

Sadly, Drive-Ins almost disappeared but happily now seem to be on the verge of a resurgence. It’s fair to say that the cinematic appeal hasn’t changed very much. State of the art multi-cinemas, digital screenings and more elaborate surround-sound systems are as popular as ever. 

The concept of music and moving images really cut its teeth in the heyday of cinema. In particular, in association with commercials. Before we dive into what adverts provide the best cinematic experiences, let’s first explore how they are made.

Advert Music – How Are Adverts Made?

Advert Music

Although territory by territory it’s difficult to make a fully comprehensive listing, there are some ads that break out internationally. 

In considering the role that music plays in advertising, there seems to be no limit to the range of products or possible uses for music. 

The major point of advertising is to bring a product to the attention of a specified target audience. But the other point is that it should convey the main concept to the viewer in the shortest possible time.  

During the 1970’s – 1980’s the grab-time was a slothful 2 seconds for static billboard posters. In today’s multimedia world the given message time is hectic with so many images fighting simultaneously for our attention. In the case of moving images the contest is quite different and the approach often depends on the platform.  

The industry standard is 20 seconds for those don’t you love ’em pre-roll commercial ads. The shortest pre-roll ads are known as ‘bumpers’ and are timed to be 6 seconds long. The longer ones at 15 – 20 seconds are made to be non-skippable. Others between 6 and 20 seconds can be skipped after just 5 seconds. 

So there you have it! From the 2-second billboard poster to the video commercial with music, your undivided attention is required for a minimum of 5 seconds. 

The #1 in our list was a particularly cinematic experience. So, let’s ‘chin chin’, taking a quick look into the past, and then move on from there.

Which Are The Best Examples Of Advert Music Hits!

”Martini – The Right One” – Is This The Best Advert Music?

martini & rossi

The unforgettable theme tune composed for the Martini Bianco adverts ran during the 1970’s. It was heard globally for more than ten years. It is one of the best TV ad songs ever written by British composer Chris Gunning. His composition, reminiscent of a Bond movie theme, really did turn out to be ‘the right one’. 

The TV adverts built around his classy and catchy melody were the result of a brilliantly devised concept by a media company located in Milano, Italy. Known as McCann-Erickson Creative, the company can probably claim that ‘Martini – the right one’, is one of the most successful lifestyle adverts of all time.

The glitzy serialised television commercials portrayed an upwardly mobile, carefree in-crowd with footage shot in Alpine ski resorts. Caribbean beaches with bikini girls, New York backdrops, and the French-Italian Rivieras to name just a few. 

The music formed the ”chin-chin” to the 1970s. It can definitely be said to be one of the most popular themes ever used in a commercial. Due to the enormous success of the cinema and TV campaigns, it was thought that a song version of the theme tune would generate high record sales. This led to a song version recorded by Danny Williams with the title ‘Dancing Easy’. Although separate from the commercials and never utilised in the ongoing campaigns, it went on to be a moderate hit in its own right. 

Chris Gunning deservedly won several industry awards for his composition. How can any commentary on the most popular advert music be complete without mentioning ‘Martini – the right one’! It really is the feel good factor on olives! Martini anyone – ?

”Yellow River” – Christie

yellow christie

Yellow pages by British Telecom was a clever adaptation of the huge international hit song ‘Yellow River’ written by Jeff Christie. The band put together for the release were also named as ‘Christie’. 

The song had originally been intended for The Tremeloes as a potential single. Due to a sudden change of musical direction by the band and indecision about releasing it, the writer himself was invited to sing over the backing track and it was released and credited to ‘Christie’. However, Jeff Christie wasn’t informed about the adaptation for British Telecom. And only knew about it when he saw the advertisement himself on the TV. 

Again, it was an incredibly catchy tune and the original title of ‘Yellow River’ naturally lent itself to be adapted for the Yellow Pages campaign. It soon attracted the attention of a media firm who were quick to sell the idea to BT. So this example definitely stands out as one of the most enduring and popular songs used in commercials. 

‘Yellow River’ captures an era when songs and bands were much more organic and skilled as players. The song still gets airplay and back in the day gave rise to many cover songs. Without a doubt, this catchy and enduring song that went on to become an international hit emerged as an integral element in one of the best TV ads ever.  

”Sail” – Awolnation

sail famous

First premiered during the 2012 summer Olympics, ‘Sail’ was later chosen for a BMW USA automotive advert campaign in the USA. The song became a top 20 hit in the US Billboard Top 100 in its own right and hadn’t even been specifically written for a commercial. 

The atmosphere generated by the song was thought to be a perfect audio-visual match by the BMW creative team. It proved to be a very popular advert, making it one of the best TV ad songs ever. 

The most frequent major clients for songs are historically the automotive industry, tourism, fashion houses, and beverage industries. Those are the ad world stalwarts. But it’s hard to imagine an advert for any product not being associated in some way or another with music. Or music specifically created for use with an individual product.

 ‘Sail’ became synonymous with BMW and was one of the best ad songs ever.  

”We Are Young” – Fun Ft Janelle Morae 

we are young Advert Music

The song was featured in an advert created for Chevrolet USA that aired during the Superbowl of 2012. The focus was the Chevrolet Sonic shown in a sequence of jaw-dropping stunts. Including a bungy jump and being skydived out of an airplane. 

Unusually, the song had already been heard and short-listed by Chevrolet as a possible advertising campaign theme. It was only matched to the eventual visual concept at a later time. Visually, it’s an exciting and edge of the seat adrenaline rush.

Matched to some extreme stunt footage, ‘We Are Young’ certainly lives up to being one of the most awesome famous advert music. 

”In The Air Tonight” – Cadbury Gorilla 

‘In The Air Tonight’ had been a huge hit record for Phil Collins and famously his debut single as a solo artist in January of 1981.

During an unusual and amusing approach by Cadbury/UK, their 2006 advert for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate featured no audio voice- over. Instead, a Gorilla is seen playing the drums and the famous drum break associated with the song. 

The high profile advertising campaign rekindled interest in the track. Causing it to re-enter the pop charts of the UK and New Zealand 25 years after its first release. 

‘In The Air Tonight’ is one of the most iconic and memorable songs used in TV adverts. It’s also one of those win/win occasions where the song was the focal point of the advert. The advert created renewed interest in the song. 

”A Little Less Conversation” – Elvis Presley Vs. Junkie XL 

elvis famous tv advert

The former 1968 hit by Elvis was a remix adopted by Nike for their Nike football advert that ran during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. 

The Elvis and football mix was predictably a great success for Nike. Filmed in the hold of a docked cargo ship, the lyric ”a little more action” gave a further kick to the onscreen supposedly secret 3-a-side all star player action. 

Although it was a hit for Elvis during the latter stages of his career, it’s also true to say that it later became one of the songs made popular by commercials. It is some of the most famous advert music ever.

The Golden Age” – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour 

the golden age

Heineken were known for producing great commercials. They commissioned this zany advert filmed in a large hotel foyer with a hyperactive cast of eclectic party goers having a wild time. 

Once again, the visual matching to the music paired it very cleverly to a Danish indie-pop group. Who elevated their own profile as a result of the outstanding success of the brilliantly directed commercial.

Thanks to a great video concept and avant-garde screen directing, ‘The Golden Age’ is one of the most famous commercial songs in the galaxy. 

”Beggin” – The Four Seasons 

famous tv advert

Commissioned by Adidas, this advert featured a 1967 remixed hit by the group The Four Seasons of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons fame. 

Used in the Adidas 2009 house-party ad featuring David Beckham, Katy Perry and a host of other well known celebrities wearing different items of Adidas clothing. This remix was created by a French DJ under the pseudonym Pilooski – forty two years after the song’s original release. 

Wow! – the copyright owners must have been beggin’ that this would happen. Happen it did in 2009, making it one of the most popular songs to be used in a commercial. 

”Applause” – Lady Gaga 

lady gaga famous tv advert

Commissioned by Korean auto manufacturer KIA, this amusing advert featured humans dressed as three sassy hamsters doing very unhamsterish things. 

Seen jogging along a beach, working out, swimming, getting their hair done under salon dryers. And finally, walking down a VIP red carpet after exiting the Kia hatchback. 

Somehow the song by Lady Gaga seemed the perfect fit for these human sized hamster characters. The instant appeal won a lot of people over to KIA. Making this song one of the most popular tracks used in an advert. 

This ‘hamsterisation’ carried on through a series of similar ads by KIA. Which perhaps says more about the appeal of hamsters than it does for KIA cars. Thanks to such a novel adaptation, ‘Applause’ by Lady Gaga has to be one of the best ad songs ever. 

”Mad World” – Michael Andrews Ft Gary Jules 

famous tv advert

Commissioned by PC game makers Xbox, the ‘Gears of War’ multimedia advert featured a remake of the original and earlier Tears For Fears song. 

During 1985 there was a genre of music known as ‘new romantic’ and Tears For Fears were an iconic electro synth-based band of that era. How a melodic song like this can end up in a futuristic sci-fi shoot ’em up wargame is hard to visualise. But the secret component in this odd ‘sim’biosis lies within the lyrical content of Mad World. Which are somehow both darkly anxious and depressive and seem to juxtapose with the dark imagery in the game itself. 

It’s not the musical melodic content as such but the syntax that drew this song to the attention of Xbox. And thereafter spawned a very well known hit record for the cover version. Truly making it one of the most used pieces of music in a commercial and even the fright-night flick, Donnie Darko. 

The song made an impressive and viral contribution in the adverts for the Xbox game. Making it one of the most popular songs used in commercials.  

”1901” – Pheonix 

1901 famous tv advert

Commissioned by Cadillac USA for their SRX model, this alternative rock song from 2009 set the tone and the pace for their 2010 commercial. 

The French band were not very well known outside of France or Europe. The use of the track in this commercial raised the profile of the band to an extent that would probably not have been possible otherwise.

Voila! The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010 and reached the position of #84. Making it one of the most famous pieces of music to be used in an advert. The song has great energy!

”1234” – Feist 

feist advert

Apple commissioned the making of a video commercial for their iPod Nano and were suitably impressed by Canadian singer/songwriter Feist to adopt her composition 1234. 

The song reached the Top 10 in the USA and was no doubt very popular with the line dance boot scooters up and down the American mid-west. Not forgetting the double Grammy nominations as well. 

This was such a big hit for Feist that it has to be one of the most famous songs used in an advert.

What Makes Good Advert Music?

Good advert music should be catchy, memorable, and appropriate to the product or service being advertised. It should also have a positive energy that will make people remember the ad and the brand associated with it.

Advert music should also be appropriate to the target audience. It should be upbeat and have a strong beat that will help to keep the audience engaged.

Summary – The Most Famous Advert Music 

tv advert

The take-away here is that by adding well known or specifically written music, the viewer will be tempted to watch the video to the end in order to hear as much of the music as possible.

It may sound conceited but it’s a clever use of psychology. Moreover, we can’t imagine a multimedia advertisement to be complete without music. 

Looking at it from the advertiser’s angle, it’s money well spent. In terms of return on investment, they need your attention and hope to hook you on the product or service within that short timeframe. The use of music you already know and are familiar with can make all the difference. 

Music, be it ad-specific created, or a cover version like Yellow River with new lyrics as in ‘Yellow Pages’, is seen as giving you something you like for your gift of attention. It’s the trade-off and the payoff that makes the ad world go round.  

As a wrap in this review of famous advert music. The partnership between entertainment and commerce is a tightly rehearsed finely tuned choreography. One that commenced in earnest during the 1970s and is still being refined in today’s world of hyperlinked multimedia consumerism.

We hope that you enjoyed this review of the most famous advert music! Let us know if we included your favourite famous advert music or if we missed any in the comment section below! Also, don’t forget to share this article across your socials and tag us @musicgateway!


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