Our Thoughts On The New OK Go Commercial!



As a fellow musician, Chicagoan, and lover of the arts, I am what you would call a bit of a "homer" when it comes to supporting local musical talent, so when OK Go rose to semi-stardom with their now-iconic DIY music video for "Here It Goes Again" back in 2006, I was incredibly happy for the band, but also completely underwhelmed from a musical standpoint.

I remember quite a few conversations with folks in all avenues of the music industry at the time who saw the video's popularity as a huge positive that would jumpstart sales of an album that had, up to that point, not been that impressive.   More than a few of those people were confident that the millions and millions of views that the video received on YouTube would translate to a dramatic jump in album sales.  I disagreed for a number of reasons, the least of which being that the song itself wasn't anywhere near as remarkable, or memorable, as the video.

After all, what kind of person buys an album because they like the video?  While I am sure such people exist, their numbers have been greatly exaggerated, as proven by OK Go's continuing visual innovation resulting in a level of sales that has, to date, succeeded only in getting them dropped by their label, Capitol Records.

Since then, the members of OK Go have continued to make new music, but their main focus has been on filming visually innovative commercials for companies ranging from Range Rover, Cisco, Chevrolet, and State Farm Insurance.

Whereas hundreds of struggling musicians would give their left arm to quit their cubicle gig at the ad agency, to make a living as a rock band, OK Go have long seemed determined to do exactly the opposite and, though they continue to release new albums every few years or so, their main focus has been creating ad campaigns for major brands looking to tap into a younger, hipper demographic.

So when they launched a major media campaign that included an appearance on The Today Show to unveil the new video for their latest single, "I Won't Let You Down", I couldn't help wonder if they were doing it to promote the song, or to promote their visual talents to potential advertising clients.

Wanting to judge the song on its own merits, I hit "play" and then changed browser windows so I could focus on the song itself.  After a few listens, I had to click back and make sure I hadn't accidentally clicked on a song from Foster The People's latest album (the one nobody bought).

Upon watching the video, I was transfixed by the visual beauty and innovation, but couldn't help wonder if I was the only one who bothered to listen to the song.  In scanning the hundreds and hundreds of comments left by viewers, I have yet to find even one comment about the song for which the commercial, er, video is meant to promote.

In that sense, OK Go has become great at creating cool commercials we can enjoy watching hundreds of times, but never actually remember the product they're meant to be promoting.

To put it another way, OK Go have succeeded in becoming the most popular rock band on the planet that you can enjoy with the sound off.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

2 comments:

  1. I too have given thought to the clever (and often brilliant) OK Go videos and the poppish nature of many of their songs. If the band's video creations -- for both their songs and for commerce -- bring in bucks and eyeballs, I think that's great. Artists throughout history have suffered for their art, and have been doing so since the first Paleolithic artist got lost in a French cave 32,000 years ago. Some artists, however (and the ones I like to call the smarter artists), figure out ways to produce art and NOT suffer. Others are just lucky. And while I don't know OK Go personally, I enjoy their music AND enjoy their video creations, and I sure as hell hope they're prospering. I've even bought some of their music!

    And if some OK Go songs are poppier than others, and others are poppier than songs of other artists, so be it. From the new album, the track THE WRITING'S ON THE WALL sounds to me a lot like New Order's TEMPTATION, and if Foster The People and New Order are signposts that listeners can use to connect to OK Go, that's OK too.

    OK Go also has this jittery noise thing going on in many of their songs, and while initially I thought the noise was due to a poorly manufactured CD, I see that OK Go uses noise as part of its recording process. It doesn't turn me off, but it may turn off others, which to me is a brand new way to suffer for your art. And I bet that I can pick out a lesser OK Go song from a batch of other artists’ songs because of that sound that OK Goes for as part of it … well … art.

    Of course, this same notion that video images may have an effect on albums sales bounced around a lot in the early days of MTV in the U.S. In the past, few recording artists took the production of promotional videos into their own hands -- like OK Go does -- and while there have been many brilliant videos over the years telling wonderful stories alongside singles and album cuts, they were always in the service of promoting artists. So if OK Go spreads its wings to make big bucks, or more likely, a living producing commercials for others, I for one applaud them.

    Mark Rosenblatt

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you, Mark, on so many components of your comment, but I feel OK GO's brilliance translates only to the ad world, which I loathe.

      I mean, the harmonious relationship between musicians and the ad world is one of desperation because there is literally no other avenue to promote one's music on a grand scale. OK GO, however, have our attention, but what do they do with it?

      They create a video that is infinitely more entertaining than the song it is meant to promote. As a songwriter, that must be heartbreaking, but I guess when Range Rover hands you a six-figure check, it eases the pain a bit.

      I'd really like to see OK Go write a song that's just flat-out brilliant (kinda like their vids) and let the music do the talking for once.

      Or put the band to rest and stick to making commercials.

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