Thursday, March 4, 2010

Imagine you never saw this ad

I have a confession to make: I never really got over John Lennon's murder.

Some kids have sports heroes. At 10 years old, mine was a Beatle. A damaged, but brilliant musician who had just recently come out of retirement to transform himself from one long anger management case study to a domesticated urban dad.

Even at my tender age, I was put off by how many people cashed in on his death. But as I grew up and fell in love myself, I became an apologist for the one person most vilified in the examination of his life: Yoko Ono.

John loved Yoko. Understanding what that means, now, brings tears to my eyes when I hear the songs he wrote about her. And while she is often (erroneously) blamed for breaking up the Beatles, John always insisted that she "saved" him. And modern accounts of his life seem to indicate that he did need saving — from profound depression and abandonment issues.

John's music has appeared in commercials since his death. "Revolution" for Nike. "Merry Xmas (War is Over)" on a children's charity appeal. But no posthumous endorsement has been as cynical as this:

What's even worse is that it is not a misappropriation, but authorized by John's heirs, Yoko and "Beautiful Boy" Sean.

New Music Express quotes Sean from his Twitter feed"
"She [Yoko] did not do it for money. Has to do w hoping to keep dad in public consciousness. No new LPs, so TV ad is exposure to young," Ono Lennon said, adding: "Look, TV ad was not for money. It's just hard to find new ways to keep dad in the new world. Not many things as effective as TV."

Who knows what John Lennon would be like, had he outlived George. Maybe the '80s would have seen him mellow out to the point of total commercialism. But when someone dies relatively young, they get the benefit of having their principles trapped in the amber of the day.

I can't see the John Lennon of my childhood hawking cars with his revolutionary words. To my mind, the best way to keep John relevant is not to twist what he said but to just let young people hear the actual words.

So kids, for your benefit, here's some social marketing that matters from the man I remember:

And the controversial one:

I wonder why, if she wanted to make John's message relevant to today, Yoko didn't just buy her own ad space somewhere, as she and John did for their NYC "War is Over" billboard back in the day:

We miss you, John. But you probably would've forgiven Yoko anyway.


  1. So what was the thinking behind this ad, "Let's have a guy who only has relevance as a nostalgic figure tell people not to worry about nostalgia?"

    If you follow the logic then... we shouldn't listen to him and therefore embrace nostalgia?

    This is the kind of thinking destroyed all of Mudd's women.

  2. You're right, Casey. I was so blinded by fanboy rage, I forgot to be an Adman for a moment.

    They're tying their edgy new brand to Lennon's 40-year-old iconoclasm.


  3. Why do Sean and Yoko want to keep John in people's consciousness, if not to promote his music and make more dollars selling it?
    If Sean and Yoko claim it's not about money, but about John's message, why didn't they just buy a huge ad and run his message? Or use his image for a charitable organization? There are better ways than hawking cars to keep him in people's consciousness.

  4. This would be cute but instead it's so sadly misinformed. For a sec, it`s like the 60s again and lazy Yoko bashing is à la mode.

    Yoko has paid for war is over billboards in NYC, SF, London, Tokyo, etc,. and full pages ads in the NYTimes and numerous international papers and magazines nearly every year since ... I dunno .. maybe the year 2000.

    Oh and did you know that every year, for the last 6 or so, she's travelled to Tokyo for an annual ALL LENNON concerts, with young Japanese bands, and the profits have so far built something like 60 schools in South East Asia and Africa....

    REcently, she also GAVE the rights to John's likeness, AND music catalog to peace efforts, in Sudan,etc, and for use by Amnesty International. There is even a recent benefit re-release of Give Peace A Chance, via Itunes, with all rights waived by Yoko , Sean AND Julian.

    One simple search with Google would have revealed ALL this and way more.

    There are better ways to remember/honor John ....


  5. Richard, I am aware that Yoko has done many things to keep John's memory alive, including giving a victim impact testimony at every parole hearing for his assassin.

    But it doesn't explain why she felt she needed to sell his interview footage to a car company to keep him in the public eye. How do you rationalize that level of cynicism?

    You're right when you say that there are better ways to remember John. But you're telling the wrong person.