IBM Watson: “I know that your major themes are that time passes and love fades”
Bob Dylan: “That sounds about right.Maybe we should write a song together.”
Bob Dylan the Commercials
Bob Dylan has done a new commercial, this time for IBM.
IBM Watson analyzes Bob Dylan’s lyrics and shows that his major themes are love and time. IBM Watson claims it can help us outthink the limits of creativity. Bob Dylan seems to enjoy himself and it feels a bit tounge-in-cheek. It may be a sell-out, but he sure make cool advertisement!
“Is there anything more American than America?”
In 1965, Bob Dylan told a reporter at a press conference that if he ever sold out to a commercial interest, it would be “ladies garments.” In 2007, he and his music appeared in this Victoria’s Secret commercial.
Victoria’s Secret (2007):
There were cries of “sell out.” Bob Dylan had licensed the song “Love Sick” from 1997’s Time Out of Mind to the company (and in 2000 licensed “Forever Young” to Apple), this was the first time he made an appearance on screen in a commercial solely for another product.
…although Apple used footage of Dylan in this 1997 ad:
Google did a bit of the same in a very innovative commercial from 2010:
The truth is that Apple had done a Bob Dylan commercial for iPod (with Dylan) in 2006 but it was kind of disguised as an ad for Dylan’s album Modern Times:
In 2007 he also did a Cadillac Escalade TV Commercial that was also combined with an ad for his own radio show:
In 2009 he allowed Pepsi to use Forever Young in a Superbowl commercial (with Will I Am):
In 2014 he did a new Superbowl commercial, and again it was for an American car company, Chrysler:
“John Baky, a curator of a collection of Dylan material housed at Philadelphia’s LaSalle University, is among those who once expressed outrage at Dylan’s advertising pursuits. “I’m going to have to go blow my brains out,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2004 upon hearing of Dylan’s appearance in the Victoria’s Secret spot. These days, he is more sanguine.
Those who express outrage don’t really understand the artist, Baky suggested in the hours leading up to the 2014 Super Bowl. After all, he has promoted himself and his music in eyebrow-raising ways for years, including documentary films, one of the earlier musician web sites and partnerships with The Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The Grateful Dead. “If the 100 million pairs of eyes are smart they will just sit back and enjoy his Super Bowl commercial for what it is – vintage Bob. And truly, I bet he really doesn’t care what anyone thinks,” said Baky. “That is why Dylan can be important to us and worthy of America – one way or another.””
He also allowed I Want You to be used in another Superbowl ad in 2014, for Chobani:
Do these commercials have something in common? They’re American companies, and the talk (especially on the 2014 Superbowl ad) is extremely American in tone:
“Surely Bob has never reached so many in such a short space of time with such a brutally strong, patriotic and downright protectionist message before.”
– The Guardian
Can his advertising work be seen as part of his all-American culture project? Music, Radio, Movies, Cars, TV and Technology? Digging into the American culture, being that through commercials or it’s songbook (Sinatra, Christmas songs, Folk songs), maybe Dylan sees the whole picture, and part of the picture is the American sell-out?