The 5 Worst (and Best) Ad Songs of All Time

The right song can help a product shine — but the wrong one can hit an off note. Billboard consulted with a six-person panel of experts in advertising and branding to determine our list of the best five songs in commercials — and five that made viewers reach for their remotes.

The Panel of Experts
• John Campanelli, vp of marketing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
• Geoff Cottrill, chief marketing officer, Converse
• Stephanie Diaz-Matos and Sara Matarazzo, executive producers/music supervisors, Search Party Music
• Mike Tunnicliffe, brands, technology and entertainment entrepreneur, Tuna Music/Filament Entertainment Group
• Josh Rabinowitz, svp, director of music, Grey Group


5. AARP: “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” – Buzzcocks

When Manchester, England, proto-punks the Buzzcocks let their song be used for a membership drive from the United States’ largest senior citizen lobbying group, it finally proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that punk isn’t dead. It is, however, exhausted, retired and taking it easy down in Florida, playing shuffleboard in elastic-waistband pants and slip-on shoes. –David J. Prince


4. Swiffer: “Whip It” – Devo

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In 2003 the original members of Devo went back in the studio to record… a new version of their classic track for a Procter & Gamble commercial. While frontman Mark Mothersbaugh insists the group only allowed the use of its song because of the ad’s absurdity — “When you’ve got a dirty floor/You need Swiffer” — it’s hard to reconcile the young punks who asked, “Are we not men?” with the middle-aged guys who ask, “Are we not shills?” –David J. Prince


3. Wendy’s “Blister in the Sun” – Violent Femmes

When thinking about sinking your teeth into a juicy hamburger, “blister” isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind. But Violent Femmes lead singer and sole songwriter Gordon Gano must have been thinking about something else when he signed over the rights to his song — he’s a strict vegetarian. Bassist Brian Richie wasn’t amused: “When you see dubious, or in this case disgusting, uses of our music you can thank the greed, insensitivity and poor taste of Gordon Gano.” –David J. Prince


2. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line: “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop

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While it’s funny to imagine a gaggle of geriatric vacationers grooving in the sun to the sound of Iggy Pop, this pairing of the punk godfather’s classic with generic leisure travel is memorable mostly as a travesty. Moshing on the lido deck! –David J. Prince


1. Victoria’s Secret: “Love Sick” – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan not only contributed one of his best recent songs to this TV commercial, he also appeared in it – the first time he had done so. Presumably because someone believed there’s no better way to promote a lingerie brand than having an old dude hanging out in the panty aisle.


5. McDonald’s: “A Minha Menina” – Os Mutantes

The use of Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes’ “A Minha Menina” in a McDonald’s TV ad during the 2008 Summer Olympics was “pretty unexpected,” says Sony/ATV Music Publishing VP of marketing John Campanelli. (He wasn’t directly involved with the ad, but he admired it). “Putting a non-English-language song in a mainstream ad for a company like McDonald’s — and having it work so well — is a testament to the band that the music actually gives forth such a feeling of exuberance,” he says. The 1968 song’s tropical melody and fuzzy guitar tone plays during a minute-long scene of children competing in a soccer match. The winning team celebrates with a large gold trophy, while the losing team heals their loss with Happy Meals. The commercial drove a significant increase in Os Mutantes’ sales: In the week ending Aug. 10, 2008, downloads of “A Minha Menina” climbed 1,638 percent compared with the previous week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. –Mitchell Peters