The Song Remains Insane: For Some Advertisers, Heavy Metal Is a Punchline
They rock hard on a pyrotechnics-filled stage, smash their guitars, run through a frenzied mob of groupies and catch a ride to the next big city. But these preening musicians don’t hop on a private tour bus filled with blow and babes. They’ll go from town to town on…Greyhound?
A fictional heavy metal band called MuttonGut stars in a new ad campaign (above) that aims to show off the amenities –- Wi-Fi, plentiful leg room and power outlets, on-board entertainment — of the bus service. With unmistakable shades of Spinal Tap, the commercial mines the comedy in the fish-out-of-water setup, while trying to change perceptions of Greyhound as a dusty old low-rent brand.
“The band members turn out to be not what you thought they were — they feel rough around the edges, but they fit in with the regular passengers,” said Steve Mapp, creative director at ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners. “And the bus turns out to be not what most people would perceive.”
The glam rockers cozy up to their fellow travelers, with one giving a smoky-eye makeup demo to his seat mate and another tearing up over a kid’s animated movie, while all roll along in modern comfort.
“None of it is what you’d expect,” Mapp said.
The campaign, airing online and in multiplexes around the country, is one of a number of ads that lean on well worn yet somehow still hilarious heavy metal tropes. Brands like Greyhound, Burger King, Jack in the Box, KFC and Litter Genie have even created their own outrageous hair bands as centerpieces of their marketing.
Others, such as ESPN SportsCenter, Marriott, Best Buy and Norton AntiVirus, tapped real metalheads as spokesmen for their products.
An attorney from Savannah, Georgia, got into the melodramatic act, launching what DeadSpin called “the most metal commercial for a personal injury lawyer of all time” with murder, vengeance and a flaming sledgehammer.
Mapp says it’s no surprise to him that the ad industry loves headbangers.
“So many of those bands came from the ‘80s when things were fun and over the top and decadent,” he said. “Tight pants, hairspray, men wearing women’s makeup –- all that’s ripe for comedy.”
Here are some recent commercials, and a few classics, to warm the hearts of any and all thrashers out there.
Metallica’s “This Is SportsCenter”
Legendary Major League Baseball player Mariano Rivera used Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as his badass walk-on theme for 15 years, but the New York Yankees relief pitcher just retired. What, then, does the band do to fill that void? Give guitar lessons and try desperately to peddle its tunes to other sports, even golf. The premise for this ESPN SportsCenter ad works, even though Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield will most certainly never starve. Along with multimillion-selling records and landmark tours, the iconic band still provides the soundtrack for many pro ballers and countless amped-up weekend warriors.
KFC’s black metal commercial
The lead singer of KFC’s fictitious big-hair band can breathe fire but he’s humbled in the face of the intense heat coming from the fast food chain’s spicy chicken sandwich in an ad that’s logged more than a million YouTube hits. Design mavens and font geeks especially appreciated the faux band’s name: Helvetica.
Coq Roq’s “Bob Your Head”
Burger King and its agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky may have made up a masked metal band called Coq Roq to promote its chicken fries, but the real band Slipknot saw too much of a resemblance and sued for trademark violations. The company countersued, in part claiming it was a parody, and both sides ended up dropping their cases. The campaign, which included a dedicated website with tons of bawdy material, also drew complaints from activists who dubbed it sexist and offensive. It was popular nonetheless.
Meat Riot’s “Hot Mess”
Since Jack in the Box’s bobble-headed mascot-namesake likes to be front and center in most of the chain’s advertising, he tacked a ratty wig on his massive noggin and became a member of the fictional band, Meat Riot, for ads touting the restaurant’s jalapeño-laced burger. There were several versions of the spot, including a 30-second commercial that aired during the Super Bowl in 2013, and its original song “Hot Mess” got a Pandora release.
JWT’s Litter Genie ad
If you think heavy metal sounds like a pack of yowling cats, then you may appreciate this Litter Genie ad that stars a pack of yowling cats. There’s plenty of CGI, dog-collar necklaces and black leather mini-duds in this music video from JWT, New York, touting the waste-disposal device that “holds two weeks of poo. It’s so easy, who knew?”
Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne’s Best Buy Super Bowl commercial
Ozzy Osbourne is no stranger to endorsements. In fact, the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness and Black Sabbath frontman has shilled for Samsung, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (can you believe that?), Pepsi (alongside the Osmonds!) and World of Warcraft. But it may be this appearance with pop star Justin Bieber for a Best Buy Super Bowl ad in 2011 where he says, “What the f*ck’s a Bieber?” that most folks easily recall.
Dokken vs. Chicken’s Norton AntiVirus ad
There were two possible endings for this 2010 ad for Norton AntiVirus Internet security product. One: a raw chicken pulled a switchblade on ‘80s metal band Dokken. Two: Dokken’s members did theatrical hip thrusts toward the raw chicken, incinerating it with a burst of fire. In other words, you have to watch this video to appreciate it.
Marriott’s commercial with Alice Cooper
Is there any brand in the world that would recruit shock rocker Alice Cooper as a spokesman? Yes, in fact. Marriott Residence Inn put Cooper into a delightfully meta ad years ago where he lectured a suburban dad about spending more time with his family. “You don’t want your kids to grow up to be weirdos, do you?” Cooper says. The horrified look on the father’s face says it all. And then Cooper jumps rope, Double Dutch style, with a few neighborhood children. Genius.
Jamie Casino’s Super Bowl commercial
Outlandish local ads are all the rage these days, and Georgia lawyer Jamie Casino does not disappoint in this two-minute spot that aired in Savannah during the Super Bowl earlier this year. It’s part confessional, part action thriller, part murder mystery. Casino, with the help of loads of slow motion, ends up looking like the Chuck Norris of personal injury attorneys. With its hard-driving metal theme song, “Devil Gets Your Soul” by Nick Nolan, it’s racked up 5.6 million YouTube views.