Search & Destroy & Move Those A4s

Unlike his acknowledged role model Jim Morrison, who rejected Buick’s request to use the Doors’ “Light My Fire” in a commercial circa 1967, Iggy never has had misgivings about his music being used as a capitalist tool, at least not publicly.

J.R. Irwin, Associate Editor

March 29, 2016

3 Min Read
Search & Destroy & Move Those A4s

Got something to sell, in this case, Audi A4s? Time to call in Iggy Pop for help. Again.

“Search & Destroy,” the opening track on Raw Power, released in 1973 by the venerable rock star and his band, The Stooges, is featured on two commercials Audi currently is airing for the A4 using the tagline, “Intelligence is the new rock and roll.”

The A4 spots extend a lengthy list of commercials featuring Iggy and/or his songs, beginning in 2001 with “Lust for Life,” co-written almost a quarter-century earlier with the late David Bowie, for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Since then the 68-year-old Michigan native, born James Newell Osterberg Jr., has lent his music, image and funny, hammy, intelligent, not-quite-self-deprecating acting to products including Schweppes beverages; Swiftcover, a U.K. online insurance company; Motorola’s ROKR, the first cellphone installed with Apple’s iTunes software; SFR, a French mobile-phone service; Orcon Broadband; and Captain Morgan Rum.

Iggy’s pitchman C.V. includes cars: He sang “Punkrocker” with the Swedish band the Teddybears in a 2007 spot for the Cadillac XLR and sang (figuratively) Detroit’s praises in an appearance with fashion designer John Varvatos in a 2013 commercial for the Chrysler 300C, part of the automaker’s rollout of its “Imported from Detroit” campaign.

(A reel of Iggy commercials, including a public-service announcement for late Stooge Ron Asheton’s animal-welfare charity, is available here.)

The Audi ads are similar to the others in that Iggy and his music project an edgy, rebellious attitude while assuming the audience is aware of his legend and persona. Audi is banking that “Search & Destroy” (“Baby detonates for me/ Look out honey, ʼcause I'm using technology!”) will resonate with its target audience of younger aspirational types, some of whom may have been conceived during a liaison accompanied by Raw Power pulsing from speakers set on shelves made from 2-by-8s and concrete blocks.

Their parents may remember the Iggy of the ʼ70s who fought heroin addiction, pioneered stage-diving and writhed on a stage covered with shards of glass. That may be part of Iggy’s appeal: Surviving is cool.

For Iggy, helping sell the A4, one grade up from Audi’s entry-level A3, is an easy payday for the heavy lifting done more than 40 years earlier when “Search & Destroy” was written and recorded. A music-licensing specialist with an advertising agency tells  “I would venture to guess that an Iggy Pop tune used in an Audi spot for a year, global use, all media, could be low- to mid-six figures” in royalties.

Unlike his acknowledged rock-frontman role model Jim Morrison, who rejected out of hand Buick’s request to use the Doors’ “Light My Fire” in a commercial circa 1967, Iggy never has had misgivings about his music being used as a capitalist tool, at least not publicly.

Defending the use of “Lust for Life” by Royal Caribbean, he said in interviews he appreciated the exposure the commercials gave the song and, anyway, he didn’t consider it an act of selling out because he and Bowie didn’t write it “with commercial intent.”  That is, they didn’t expect in 1977 that it would be used to sell cruises to edgy young thrill-seekers in 2001. Contrast that with, say, alt-rock legends the Flaming Lips, who were commissioned to write “Sun Blows Up Today” for Hyundai for a 2013 Super Bowl commercial.

The A4 ads conveniently are running concurrently with Iggy’s “Post Pop Depression” tour. Accompanied by a band led by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Iggy, raised in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, MI, comes home April 7 for a show at Detroit’s Fox Theatre.

I have tickets for that show. As long as I can avoid the lines of A4s waiting for valets, I should be able to find parking.

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About the Author(s)

J.R. Irwin

Associate Editor, WardsAuto

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