The Beatles: a history in ads

Today (5 October) marks 50 years since The Beatles released their first single, “Love Me Do”. To mark the occasion Marketing Week takes the Magical Mystery Tour through the Liverpudlian band’s hook up with brands through those golden years.

Marlboro 1964

Our journey begins in 1964, the year the “Hard Day’s Night” film was released, boosting the Beatles to US super stardom. As Beatlemania swept the States and every American under 35 was after a piece of the fab four, you can’t blame the band for feeling the need to chill out with a cigarette. The cig of choice? Seemingly Marlboro, which John Lennon and George Harrison were more than happy to endorse in the video below.

Nike 1987

Next we take quite a dramatic skip through the years to 1987, when “Revolution” became the first Beatles song to be officially licensed for use in advertising. Music snobs and Beatles obsessives have none other than Michael Jackson, then owner of ATV Music Publishing, to thank for the apparent sell out, which Nike paid a handsome $500,000 sum for.

To their musical credit, The Beatles filed a lawsuit in the summer of ‘87 objecting to Nike’s use of the song. The matter was settled out of court two years later, although the exact terms of the suit are unknown.

John Lewis 2008

John Lewis, which to this day still places music at the heart of its TV campaigns (although it now tends to opt for breathy female cover versions), featured the Beatles’ first chart-topping song “From Me To You” for its 2008 campaign. Admittedly, it was another cover version from the department store, but it was a landmark moment as the ad was the first to feature a Beatles song in the UK.

Rock Band 2009

Back to the real Beatles in 2009, with an ad for their version of the video game Rock Band. Gamers joined CGI images (yeah Tupac hologram, you weren’t the first) of John, Paul, George and Ringo to play along with the opening track from Abbey Road, “Come Together”, on the famous street itself. One can only hope they looked left, right and left again before crossing over to join the jamboree.

Citroen 2010

John Lennon fans were outraged at his widow Yoko Ono in 2010 for allowing Citroen to use footage of the deceased rocker – alongside a dubbed video of Marilyn Monroe – for a TV ad for its new hatchback. Lennon would have “turned in his grave” apparently.

Apple 2011

Apple got rather excited in 2011 when it managed to bag The Beatles back catalogue on iTunes. So much so that it covered the iTunes store and its website with pictures of the band and launched a TV ad seamlessly segueing through its LP covers to the soundtrack of “The Magical Mystery Tour”. The near 40-year trademark dispute between Apple Corps – owned by The Beatles – and Apple Inc. was obviously long forgotten.

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