What's the Worst Ad Song Ever?
The results are in.
"I used to chuckle when those Philips Electronics ads came on TV. With its sunny, recognizable melody, the Beatles' 'Getting Better' was a good choice, up to a point. A prominent feature of the song is the phrase 'can't get no worse' during the chorus, seeming to express the British propensity for simultaneous optimism and pessimism. I noticed the folks at Philips left that phrase out … not to mention the other parts about adolescent rage and the beatings he gave his woman."
"Using the Beatles' 'Taxman' for H&R Block seems a bit strange. The song vilifies the taxman, but the commercial identifies the taxman as ... an H&R Block accountant near you! Maybe not what George Harrison had in mind?"
Readers had multiple problems with an ad for Windows:
"Microsoft used the Rolling Stones' 'Start Me Up.' Lines like 'I can't compete' are weirdly appropriate for a monopoly."
"Among the many examples that come to mind are Microsoft's use of the Rolling Stones' 'Start Me Up' to sell Windows. Their edit conveniently leaves out the refrain 'You make a grown man cry'—a sentiment all too familiar to Windows users."
Maybe they should have used "Crash" by the Dave Matthews Band?
Finally, there were a number of car ads (including a couple for the same car) that got people's dander up:
"No doubt, the ad whizzes at GM's agency thought that tying the 'new' Cadillacs to the loud and very male Led Zeppelin's 'Rock and Roll' would be viscerally a great idea. But the song is about not getting any! Those of us who know the lyrics (and let's face it, there aren't that many to learn) know the song is about a guy complaining that it's been a 'lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.' So is the message buy a Caddy and forget about getting laid? Argh!"
"The most outrageous misrepresentation of a song must be the Nissan Maxima commercial featuring the Smiths' 'How Soon Is Now?' A college radio favorite from the late '80s, it has to be one of the most depressing tunes ever used to sell anything. Sample lyrics: 'There's a club if you'd like to go/ you could meet somebody who really loves you/ so you go, and you stand on your own/ and you leave on your own/ and you go home, and you cry/ and you want to die.'"
"When Nissan redesigned the Maxima in 2000 or so, the commercials consisted of the car tearing across a desert (or salt flat, something that flies up in an impressive whirlwind behind the tires) to the sound of Pete Townshend's power chords from the Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' So a redesign of your typical reliable Japanese midsize sedan with nothing overly exciting about it gets introduced by 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.' Yeah, that gets me excited about the new car. The irony: About a year later I bought a 2001 Maxima. What can I say? It's reliable and drives really nice."
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.
Photograph of Iggy Pop on the Slate home page by Fred Tanneau/AFP Photo.