The 6 Most Inappropriate Song Choices in Advertising

Choosing the right song for your commercial is a delicate process. You need to find one that gets the viewers' attention immediately, sets the proper mood, conveys the intended message, and convinces everyone that they need to buy your product immediately.

Or you could do what these companies did and just choose the first thing that pops up on your intern's iPod. That works, too.

#6. Garnier Fructis Presents the Most Gangsta Shampoo Ever


The Commercial:

Since not too many songs directly reference shampoo and "Hair" by the Cowsills has just been done to death, the fine folks at Garnier settled for a nice, catchy beat to accompany the traditional glamour shots of a model whipping passersby with her cruel but beautiful locks.

How Inappropriate!

Proving that no job is too simple to screw up completely, the company went with "Diamonds and Guns" by the Transplants.

True to its title, the song is about the joys of gangster life:

Lookin' for the bitch who took the money and run
Now the daylight's gone and there's no more fun
And who's the fuckin' bitch who stole all the heroin?
Heroin, heroin, it's all gone
Smoked it all up, and now you got none

And then later:

I'm wiggin out, flippin' out, hearts is what I'm rippin' out

So wash your hair with Fructis, ladies! Or Garnier will rip your fucking heart out.

And your fucking hair out. Shoulda strengthened with Garnier.

You'd think the title alone would warn corporate away -- "Diamonds and Guns" doesn't exactly scream "refreshing hair cleanse." But we are all apparently drastically underestimating how hardcore the shampoo industry is. Not only did they stick with their choice for the above commercial, they kept it around for a few more.

Because that's the true secret to maintaining a shiny, voluminous head of hair: heroin and murder.

#5. Royal Caribbean Cruises (and Hard Drugs) Give You a Lust for Life

Royal Caribbean

The Commercial:

Royal Caribbean wants you to experience the thrill of a lifetime, which is why their commercials are filled with gourmet food, surfing, zip lining, and implied middle-aged boning in pools of over-chlorinated water. Each one is set to the pounding, yet highly danceable beat of a beloved classic rock song from the good 'ol 1970s: Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life." You'll have a lust for life, too, if you get on a really big boat with these desperate strangers today!

How Inappropriate!

"Lust for Life" is a song about how awesome drugs and alcohol are. There's no other way to explain lines like:

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He's gonna do another strip tease

The lyrics leave very little room for misinterpretation, and the ruined visage of Iggy Pop's deflated chest leaves even less. But Royal Caribbean managed it anyhow. As far as they're concerned, a lust for life doesn't come from destroying your family by constantly shooting up; it comes from disappointing your family by subjecting them to endless shuffleboard and horribly stale stand-up comedy.

And unlike many instances of clueless executives who don't bother to actually listen to the music their ads are using, Carnival absolutely has a clue. Jay Williams, the creative director of the agency responsible for the campaign, has straight up admitted that his company chose the song simply because they liked the beat. They decided, "Iggy wasn't someone [they] were going to put out front." So they cherry picked the "lust for life" refrain, cut literally everything else, and hoped against hope that everybody watching the commercial would be too excited about jet skis to look up the rest of the lyrics.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"Hey man, where'd ya get that lotion?
Your skin starts itching once you buuuuy the gimmick ..."

But just in case anyone did listen, Williams had a counter prepared. He insists the song is actually anti-drug, and that the narrator's "lust for life" comes from his newfound sobriety. He is literally the only person who sees it that way, including the creator of the song. Although Iggy did say he enjoys the commercials and is fine with the usage, probably because he had a syringe full of "life" pumping through his veins at the time.

#4. Janis Joplin Unwittingly Endorses Mercedes-Benz from the Grave

Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Commercial:

Mercedes-Benz ran an ad wherein an entire town sings part of Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" in honor of a handsome Benzo doing the whole village the honor of driving through it. In one instance, a mother even coos it to her infant child. Aw! Never too early to teach that little fella to want things above his means.

How Inappropriate!

"Mercedes Benz" wasn't about how great Mercedes-Benzes were -- it was about how wanting one was kind of a shitty thing to do.

Joplin had grown up in the '50s and '60s, and the era's constant "buy buy buy" attitude had deeply affected her outlook on life. So she wrote a song about how pointless and depressing it is to lust after stuff, because all it does is make us want more stuff. After all, not only does consumerism not satisfy your soul in any meaningful way, it also means less money for sweet, sweet booze and less time for sweet, sweet boning.

The song has two more verses, which, of course, the commercial doesn't touch, because Janis forgot to mention any obscenely expensive vehicles in them. In the second verse, she sings about how much she wants a color TV -- another useless extravagance to her eyes (hey, they hadn't invented video games yet, you can't blame her). In the third verse, Janis only wants "a night on the town." That was the point of the structure of the song: The narrator pines for progressively less impressive things, dropping from a pricey new car to just a few fleeting moments of distraction, because she knows they're all out of her reach, and probably won't make her any happier anyway.

But Mercedes-Benz saw all that and just thought "Hey, she mentioned us! Let's use it!"

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