Commercials That Make Surprising Use of Classic Songs

Written by Daniel Southwell on April 13, 2021

We’re used to feature films making use of recognizable music in their soundtracks. But commercials busting out an iconic song is a little more rare.

Using a track that viewers recognize is tricky. Songs come with associations, and you don’t always know what viewers associate a song with. But it can also be really surprising, clever, and effective. 

Let’s look at three commercials that have really pulled it off.


PlayStation: Perfect Day

This commercial immediately came to mind when we were talking to Adrian Montgomery about genuine friendships and communities forming around video games. It captures the joy of gaming with friends in a way that’s hilarious and heartfelt at the same time. The players’ rendition of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day is one of the most unique takes on a classic song we’ve seen.


Budweiser: Brotherhood

This is a straightforward example of using a classic song to underscore the emotions of a heartfelt story. We all remember the attachment between the trainer and the clydesdale, but this would have been a completely different film without Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide.


Volkswagen: The Force

The music is only part of the Star Wars-themed story in this film, but it does most of the heavy lifting. It’s hard to imagine this commercial working without John Williams’ score. The juxtaposition of the adorable tiny-Vader with the intensity of the music allows us to imagine just how epic this moment is in the child’s head. It had to be the Imperial March.


The Power of the Familiar

You might not have the budget to license Fleetwood Mac, but there’s a broader lesson here. People respond to what they know, and things they already understand how to think about can do a lot of the work for you. 

This can be as involved as creating a Star Wars-inspired commercial, or as simple as using visual language that viewers are familiar with, to associate your advertising with things that carry meaning for viewers.