Friday, February 10, 2012

Definitely Not Selling Out

Last weekend, OK Go released their eighth (I think) music video off their album Of the Blue Colour of the Sky for the song "Needing/Getting."  It goes without saying that my anticipation for a new OK Go video is always high, but this video was different because if looked at really quickly, it looks like an ad.  Here's the video:

The car is a Chevy Sonic and the car company liked the video so much, they integrated it into a Super Bowl ad (which you can see here).  The ad is impressive, but not nearly as amazing as the video.  I really don't think I need to say anything about the video; since Sunday, there have been almost 10.8 million views.  Yes, you read that right.  I don't know what the numbers are for their other music videos off Of the Blue Colour... or for "Here It Goes Again," but regardless, that's about 1.8 million views per day.

But what got me thinking was how prominently the car and Chevy's logo are featured in the video.  You could almost argue it is an ad for the car itself.  My thought process went like this:

"But OK Go totally aren't sell-outs."  Pause.  "But what's the definition of a sell-out?  Isn't this the epitome of selling out?  They were in a Super Bowl ad!"  Pause.  "No, they're not sell-outs."

According to Wikipedia, "selling out" is "the compromising of (or the perception of compromising) integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for money or 'success' (however defined)."  Later, it details sell outs in music, citing merchandising and commercialization as characteristics.  Now, how is appearing in a Super Bowl ad, the mother of all commercialization, not selling out?

OK Go left their major label, Capitol Records, so that they could endeavor in their own creative projects, namely, their own record label, Paracadute, and making music videos, uploading them online and not having to deal with the sticky problem of copyrights, embedding, etc.  The band has used corporate sponsorship/support for other music videos previously: Range Rover's Pulse of the City app for "Back from Kathmandu," State Farm for "This Too Shall Pass," Google Chrome for "All Is Not Lost."  But again, "Needing/Getting" appeared in a Super Bowl ad and the car is much more prominent than any of the logos in the previous videos (ok, for "All is Not Lost," the interactive version is only viewable using Chrome).

The reason why I don't think this is selling out at all is because Chevy did not approach the band and tell them to make a video using the Sonic.  The idea is the band's and in order to realize their creative ideas, they need corporate sponsorship.  I can't imagine the cost of producing the video, but hey, if Chevy is going to pay for it and the band gets to have an amazing video, why not?  The Wikipedia definition discusses the compromising of integrity, morality, or principles, and this is obviously not the case with OK Go.  If they need something, why not go to companies with deep pockets who are willing to put the money out for them?  Moreover, the band has had behind-the-scenes videos for their fans because the majority of people ask, "How did they do that?!"  I know I've said this before, but I've liked the band since they released their first album and have seen them grow in popularity.  Lots of people know them and that's ok.  But they make these videos for themselves and for their fans, hence why I think that "Needing/Getting" is still not selling out. 

I think advertising is definitely changing and rather than there being pure commercials, meaning, television advertisements during TV shows, products are being more and more integrated with other visual forms.  What I mean is that commercials don't stand alone anymore; they can be seen online on YouTube.  However, it is not limited there because music videos are generally becoming commercials too.  Yes, they were always commercials for the music they sold, but check out the slew of videos now that include products (Lady Gaga's "Telephone," J. Lo ft. Pitbull's "On the Floor," LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It," etc.)  The products in those videos feel less organic than the Chevy Sonic in the "Needing/Getting" video; the OK Go video would not work without a car, whereas the other videos could function without the product placement.

I have to applaud Chevy for working with OK Go.  For me, seeing a company that wants to support artistic creativity through such advertising is more effective than a funny commerical (see: Honda's Super Bowl ad featuring Matthew Broderick and remaking Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  My reaction: Meh, ok...what car was it again?).  I am far more likely to watch the OK Go video repeatedly (and I have admittedly seen it at least four times already) than the Matthew Broderick ad.  And every time I watch the video, I will see the Chevy Sonic.  That is what I call effective advertising.  For OK Go, it's just another creative music video with the help of a big corporate company, but definitely not selling out.


Anonymous said...

" did we get it ? "

nice closing line. the term selling-out always seemed like sour grapes to me.

Goda said...

Very nice post!

plee said...

@crowbloke: Yes, "selling out" was definitely always sour grapes, but at the same time, it's always important for fans to have a close relationship to the band.

@Goda: Thanks!

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