The Commercialization of Ska!

You may have noticed that you're hearing a lot of ska these days - on the radio, on t.v., that upbeat seems to be everywhere. Too bad that most of that ska is background music for ads. I understand the attraction of course - unlike, say, Korn, ska music can convey a postive emotional state (i.e. "happy") to a listener in under 30 seconds. So here's a tally of the ads I've heard so far. If you see or hear one that isn't here (or if you know who the songs' artists are), let me know*.

Better Homes & Garden - 4/00

I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention when this ad was on, and the ska was so generic that I almost missed it entirely, so I'm not sure what this was advertising exactly. The magazine? A realtor? The ska beat didn't help explain any of it...

Kohl's Dept Stores - 1/00
I've never heard of Kohl's before (I think they're just moving to NY) but I won't forget them after their twin ska ads. The 15 second ads generally run back to back during channel 5's "Good Day New York", and I know I've heard the music before. Basically it's neo-trad instrumental over quick edits of Kohl's products (clothes, appliances, toys) and people looking happy about Kohl's products. My guess is that the music in at least one of the ads is the Articles, but if anyone knows for sure, let me know.
This just in: Andy writes "You are exactly's the articles. Their website announced it a few months back. It's great for them; they can put some cash into studio time and get a new album out this year I hope." thanks Andy!

Two Guys, A Girl, and Rancid - 8/99
In ABC's desperate attempt to rehab Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place they've added some ska to the fall trailer. And not just any ska - it's Rancid (or something amazingly similar). So, do you want to watch it yet?

Stop the Madness - 5/99
One of those wacky internet ads that the kids like so much nowadays. This one is pretty dada-esque. A man in tighty-whitey underwear chases a duck (or goose?) back and forth through a lush, green field. At the end of the ad the words "Stop the Madness" appear on screen, which is appropriate since Madness's "One Step Beyond" is playing the entire time. I don't get it, but it's great to listen to.

Let's Go Insuranceing! - 3/99
This insurance ad may be local to NY State, but as ska ads go its prety good. Better than average, bouncy ska music plays under shots of a bowling alley and a Swingers-type guy in a wheelchair lining up a shot. Bright colors and bright ska - its got me sold!

Red Lobster - 1/99
Deciding there's nothing like a little upbeat to sell dead crustaceans, Red Lobster cooks up ("cooks up" get it? get it?) this ad showing people cavorting on a beach to a ska/reggae tune. Despite the sun, the sand, and the ska, this ad did not make me want to cough up $10.99 for a plate of dead fish. Alas.

This Just In! From mary: "the song in that red lobster commercial is a specials cover of the monkees' 'a little bit you, a little bit me'."

Circuit City - 9/98
This one's definitely a keeper - if only I'd gotten it on video! Circuit City's having a labor day sale, which is helpful for this ad's main character - a well-dressed man on a Vespa, who's earthly possessions are being thrown out of his apartment window. And if he's got a Vespa, you know that ska's the theme music playing underneath!

Cupid - 9/98
I'm beginning to see a disturbing trend. Another ad for a new television show and another poor Bosstones "Impression That I Get" style tune. Here we have Jeremy Piven i.e. Cupid, the god of Love, talking with an unidentified female cast mate about... some love related thing I think. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention, to be honest. This ad does get points for connecting Jeremy Piven with ska once again - Piven is the actor who not only played Ellen's med school dropout cousin on Ellen but also John Cusack's old high school buddy turned real estate broker in Grosse Pointe Blank. And what was so great about Grosse Pointe Blank (besides the story, the plot, the casting, and John and Minnie)? The SKA! Go Jeremy!

Bud Lite Strikes Again! - 9/98
That Mikey's at it again! This time he's not even bothering to hide that ska-flavored Bud Lite from his pal! He's gone and hired a bodyguard/bouncer to stand in the kitchen and stop anyone but him from opening the fridge for a beer! Oh Mikey, you ska-rascal you!

Best Buy on the MTV Video Music Awards - 9/10/98 - 9:23 P.M.
Best Buy tries to shill their wares and my eyes are glazing over as I watch a new black & white image every few seconds. The voiceover talks about how hard it is to "make it" and how you've just got to keep trying. Meanwhile, shots of musicians on the street, on stage, goofing around are intercut one after another after another. Suddenly, 2/3 of the way through the ad, who pops up but...


Yes, that's right. Easy*Life's favorite trombonist/stage presence is featured for a full 3 seconds in a Best Buy ad, blaring away on the horn like mad. Hope you're getting those residuals Vin!

Payless Back To School Sale - 9/98
Happy horn-driven ska plays as Mom narrates a tale of how she wanted to surprise her daughter on her first day of school. Up she drives to the high school and steps out of the car only to reveal that she and her daughter are wearing... (music stops) THE SAME SHOES! The daughter is horrified. The music resumes. The horns blare on.

Costello - 9/98
One of Fox's fabulous fall tv offerings. I know nothing at all about the show except that it looks to be one of those "single-woman-hard-as-nails-gals" shows. I do know that the ska music they're using for the ads is a blatant rip-off of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones "Impression That I Get". I think they switched maybe three notes. Pathetic.

Ska Burgers at Wendy's - 8/98
A female office drone imagines an exciting new life, while in reality she's sitting in a Wendy's with Dave Thomas, enjoying a fabulous new Wendy's sandwich. The soundtrack to her fantasy (need I say it)? Ska

Game Boy Camera - 8/98
The product advertised is some kind of Game Boy attachment that lets you take perfectly good pictures of people and then electronically alter them (i.e. draw big fake pirate mustaches on them...) Much the same way this commercial alters a perfectly good musical form (ska) into ridiculous background music for hyperactive 12 year olds.

"Who Wants to Spend Their Life At the Pump?"
Or listening to this Mobil SpeedPass ad for that matter. The tv ad features this simple ska number playing under shots of people speedily getting gas and paying for it through a super high-tech electronic debit card (which scares the bejesus out of me by the way). The radio version of the ad features the following the same ska tune as in the ad, done acoustically.

House Rules
Yet another perky NBC sitcom about perky folks who've been friends for life. And what's that playing over the commercial? Why, it's Madness's "Our House"! Oh, the humanity...

TNT Superbowl
This is a television ad, though I haven't seen it - it was played for me over the telephone. It begins with what sounds to me EXACTLY the start of the Bosstones' "Impression That I Get". It's almost eerie. It then moves into some fairly repetitious horn lines while an overly excitable TNT host sings the praises of the TNT Superbowl. Ska? Football? I see the connection...

Bud Lite
Another tv ad, this one features ex-Parker Lewis Can't Lose best friend Mikey as a guy who hordes his Bud Lite away from his friend. The friend goes to the fridge while some innocuous ska plays in the background and opens it. The thing's empty. After he leaves Mikey goes to the fridge & hits a button or something and the false front falls away, revealing a fridge stocked with Bud.

You know, I thought ska was all about being good to your fellow human, but I guess Budweiser has other ideas.

Out of all the ads, this is the one I've seen the most. A 20-something guy with big hair tools around in a Saturn over the strains of some peppy, but subtle ska. A voice-over explains that the Guy is driving cross-country, stopping at various Saturn dealerships to get his car fixed every couple hundred miles. The catch? There's nothing wrong with his car - he just wanted the free doughnuts! Oh that wacky Saturn! Oh that wacky Ska!

*Yes, I have heard The Toasters's Coca-Cola radio commercial, but I've chosen not to include it on this list for one simple reason: for all intents & purposes, it's a celebrity endorsement. Unlike the other ads listed above, the Toasters's Coke ad features a band that you can recognize (e.g. the Toasters) endorsing a product, much like Michael Jordan and Rosie O'Donnell do. The whole point of the Toasters's ad is that the band endorses Coke. In the ads above however, the ska music is not only unrecognizable as being by any one artist, but it's background music. The ska isn't selling the product, it's only providing a soundtrack for it.

And by the way, I like the Toasters ad a lot. I think it's nifty.


From Travis - 10/00
Also, I was watching TV the other day, and I saw that Taco Bell commercial where the guy is getting his food through the drive thru window, and much to my surprise, "Left for dead" by the Voodoo Glow Skulls was playing in the backround. A little while ago, actually more like a year ago), there was another comercial for some taco place on, featuring a family at a table, and their kid was wearing an Operation Ivy t-shirt. Neat, huh?

From rabbit204 - 9/00
The theme for KABLAM! on Nickelodeon is none other than the Toasters - "Two Tone Army", as well as some of the other shows which use ska in the theme songs...On that subject, Alex Mack is also known to like ska.

From christian - 8/00
hey, i heard a voodoo glow skulls song on a taco bell commercial yesterday...i cant remember the name of the song, but its definately VGS, and the hippos do a theme song for a nickelodeon cartoon show too. and the daily show now uses a small clip of ska when they go to commercial, i dont know what it is, but its a great trombone solo.

From SkaDrumz2 - 6/00
In the ads on a&e for the biography show, they have some ska riff resembling a skatalites song

From Dave - 6/00
There is not an hour that goes by with out the sounds of blaring horns over MTV's crap programming, in fact just yesterday the most disturbing of all, they actually used some clips from Edna's Goldfish's "Veronica Sawyer", not only was I awestruck but I almost punch in my TV for the sheer stupidity of it all. Anyway I shouldn't have been watching MTV anyway.

From Stephanie - 5/00
There's been a song airing in a recent AT&T@Home ad on tv, with the ska being pretty prominent..the lyrics go somewhat like this: "she said to me, let's start a revolution, I don't wanna go, I wanna stay at home..." I don't know who does it, though.

From katy
i found two! the first one was is in a commercial for a movie called "whatever it takes" and one of the commercials has some ska in the background. i don't know who it is or what song it is but it's there!

the second is not really music but if anyone watches "get real" (it's an addicting show... it's like a soap opera!) in the oldest kids room (cameron) there's a whole bunch of posters in his room of ska and fun ska bands.

From jon
The TV show "Clueless" really sucks, but I once heard the specials cover of the Toots and The Maytals song pressure drop on one show.

From matt porter
On one of the greatest shows ever, the Simpsons, there was recently a reference to ska...

Ned Flanders: "I feel so horrible...I just lost my wife"
Singer for Christian Folk band: "Yeah, I know how you feel. We just lost our drummer to a Satanic Ska Band"

Not in commercial form but I personally got a kick out of it.

From Djared - 1/00
The new Superman cartoon, has a villan, by the name of Rudie. One episode finds this villan busting out of jail. This fact alone got me laughing, but it went further. Two quotes from said episode: "Rudie's out of jail!" and Superman actually says, "I've got a message for you Rudie!" Of course these are paraphrases, but I'm not picky. I checked up on the writters of this episode, and one of them is none other than Evan Dorkin, creator of old ska comic, Pirate Corp$.(editors note: anyone who can tell me what my connection to Pirate Corp$! is wins a shiny new cd!)

Skankin' Pickle did the theme song for Margaret Cho's sitcom. But it was rejected due to a change in title for the show. No matter, the show didn't last.

There was a commercial for an 80's music comp. (from billboard or Rhino or something) They showed a skinny, new wave-esque, rude boy skankin'.

Singled-Out and Kablam (and various other Nick and MTV shows) use lots of Toasters stuff. Mostly off of Hard Band for Dead.

More than a few episodes of singled out have used samples from The Urge to take them from scene to scene. Mostly just the guitar solo from "Brainless" and the horn riff from "All washed up"

From casey tango
on the tv the other day i saw (or heard rather) something that surprised me. it's a Surge commercial. y'know, that nasty soda. anyway, there are three guys sitting in a mexican restaraunt of sorts and when one of them walks away the others put hot sauce in his burrito. throughout the whole thing there is what seems to be a mariachi version of the Skatalite's "Occupation" playing. it sounded vaguely familiar at first but then the unmistakeble horn line was a smack in the face. you'd have to hear it for yourself because it's unbelievable otherwise.

From andrew
I was watching The Real World on MTV one time and about 2 or 3 times it played the beginning of "I'm Running Right Through the World" by the Toasters...I know it's not an ad but still, it's even better to hear it on a show.

From Michelle
Ok this about ska in ads. Well in a Sears commercial they were playing Save Ferris. I can't remember the song, but I think it was "For You".
Also I was watching TV and there is a Burger King commercial that plays ska in it. It's an advertisement for the chicken sandwich. I don't know who it is, but it really rocks!

From Mary
I saw a Guiness commercial on TV with Hepcat's "Can't Wait" playing in the background.

From IDEAtoons
listen to the theme song from the norm show dont know the band but its a good song and the show aint that bad

From Ben
uh, I saw a Miller commercial (I think it was miller light) featuring Hepcat....

From Rjmidnight
There's a new Dunkin Donuts commercial that has a ska tune playing towards the end (it's pretty good too, i didn't recognize the band). Also, there's a cheezy ska radio jingle for some local ford dealership where the vocalist get's all happy cause he found this dealership. It plays during the "One Step Beyond" radio show alot. They also play Sam Ashe's commercial with either "Skatanic" or "DLTBGYD", I'm can't remember.

From Kevin Anderson
Well, now "Can't Wait" by Hepcat is being used to sell Heinekins. What the f*ck is up with that?

From SkaChica49
there is this commercial that im seeing EVERYWHERE... its an add for TCI@Home cable internet or some crap but its got some REALLY good ska in the background... and its not even really in the background... its pretty predominante it goes summin like *i was looking for a solution in this noise and air polution when she came around and said lets start a revolution i said i dont wanna go i wanna hang around at home LETS GO!* it sounds really really really neat...

From Dave
i noticed a ska type beat in a Red Lobster comercial that was on for a while. i'm not sure if it's still on though.

From MattG
aol is using 'don't let the bastards grind you down' & A&E as well as food network have been running commercials with ska, too

Well this isnt really a ska ad because they dont play ska, but it involves ska. Basically Sprite is doing a series of there "image is nothing thirst is everything" ad campaigns making fun of mainstream music trends in ads. They have had bands like hanson and the spice girls say how cool sprite makes them, and then say how there only doing it for the money. Well because ska is obviously a music industry created music which bands are only in the money in a recent sprite ad you here a band say "were not the ska-punkers that you think we are, were only jingle singers from suburban calafornia(we all know that every ska band is from orange county, right?)" The funny thing is that the music does not even resemble ska or punk its like emo-surf-power pop with 2 trumpet notes. This is the most disgraseful ska ad I've ever heard.

From an anonymous reader
on the subjects of ska commercials on TBS in an ad for some movies (rocky4 and something else) they were playing Madness "One Step Beyond" ( but the vocals were really faint). Also in a honda civic ad in an attempt to be hip and cool with the youth this lady gives all these cases when she uses her car among them "your brothers 'ska' band's van breaks down" she says ska very cliche. Some of the members are wearing walt jocabsco type fred perry, pork pie stuff shows they did a nominal ammount of research also.

From Sarah Tier, Editor of Ska-la-la-BOOM-deay!!
Ok I have a place where ska is used for background music, and although I hate to admit this. Ok little quick breifing here, yes I'm in High School, and yes I listen to ska, and yes I still watch Saturday Morning cartoons. Ok now that, that is out of the way, the place I heard ska as background music was on the promo for fox telling you which show was coming up next on there saturday morning line up. Now I don't know if it is still there since now I've taken to watching Cartoon Network all day everyday. But it was there.

From Michael Weinstein
there is a rice krispies ad with an upbeat 3rd wave ska rythym in the background.
There's also the Vans commercial with the Less Than Jake song, and the "*69" ad with the parrot and the ska-reggae background music.

From Erica
Um, a cartoon or show on Nickelodeon, whose name I have forgotten, but it's cute and funny, has a theme song by the Moon Ska Stompers. I think that is their name, or something like that. I've only seen it once.

Also there is this Honda commercial where some girl is talking on the phone and saying something like her brothers ska band is stranded in the desert, and then I think they show the band. Again, I don't remember too well!

From Marcus
One Step Beyond is in every single movie lounge add on tbs, which airs every saturday

Also there is a very upbeat funk ska instumental in a series of campbells soup commercials w/kids who think that their mom is ordering out when in actuality she's using campbell's soup recipe ads. The great thing is not the ska, its the fact that the type of soup in one of the commercials is cheddar chese soup(no joke).

To elaborate on the sprite ads there is actually a little upbeat, but its very distorted and is behind another guitar. The stupid thing is that the song goes "we're not the ska punkers that you think we are we're using the money sprite gives us to by new cars" The whole ska punk ethic the record labels present (and I dont mean Op Iv, Against all Authority, Choking victim or the Readymen) is that ska is all happy and we don't care about the world, we wanna sell out etc. etc. etc. So the whole suburban california thing is BS

The Easy*Life Ska Zine Home Page

I've seen that stupid Budweiser commercial