BOSTON–The soul-wrenching experience of recovery from heroin addiction was used to evoke the financial security of a major banking institution Monday, when Boston-based Metrobank launched a high-profile ad campaign featuring "Lust for Life" by seminal '70s proto-punk Iggy Pop.
"We needed something that conveyed Metrobank's global financial presence, high-powered transaction capabilities, and respected position throughout the business community," said Jared Morris, president of Ogilvy & Mather, the spot's creator. "So, we thought, what better way than to call to mind punk forefather Iggy Pop's long, terrifying struggle with a near-fatal heroin habit?"
The 30-second spot, which premiered Monday during Everybody Loves Raymond, features images of gleaming skyscrapers, money changing hands, and businessmen on cell phones striding confidently down marble hallways. Notably absent from the ad is any footage of a shirtless, bleeding Iggy Pop in skintight leopard-print pants, repeatedly bashing himself in the face with a microphone onstage at the legendary New York punk venue CBGB's.
Ian Hammond, who masterminded Global Tetrahedron Financial's acquisition of Metrobank earlier this year, rolled out the new campaign with a reception at the company's headquarters.
"We at Metrobank are proud to welcome Mr. Pop to the Global Tetrahedron family," said Hammond, reading from a prepared statement. "We feel confident that this new commercial, much like Mr. Pop's exploits as the rolling-through-broken-glass frontman for The Stooges, will greatly appeal to our valued customers' 'lust for life.'"
Added Hammond: "Putting your trust in a financial institution other than Metrobank, well, that's like hypnotizing chickens."
The spot is part of a growing trend among advertisers to utilize songs associated with hardcore needle drugs. Among the notable heroin-themed songs featured in recent commercials: Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says," with its chorus of "I'm gonna kick tomorrow," for Motorola two-way pagers; The Velvet Underground's copping-heroin-in-Harlem anthem "I'm Waiting for The Man," for the 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee; and Neil Young's "The Needle And The Damage Done," for the men's hair-replacement medication Rogaine.
"When The Rolling Stones sing, 'The sunshine bores the daylights out of me' on Exile On Main Street's 'Rocks Off,' they're singing about the deadening effects of narcotics addiction and their powerlessness to escape it," said Dennis Frazier, creative director of Foote, Cone & Belding. "Such sentiments resonate profoundly with the American consumer. That's why 'Rocks Off' is perfect for Procter & Gamble's new line of children's shampoos."
Whether Metrobank's $11 million ad gamble will pay off in the long run remains to be seen, but so far, focus-group feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The campaign has already helped cement the mainstreaming of heroin-themed advertising, with more ambitious campaigns currently in the works.
"As junkie author William S. Burroughs conveyed in his hallucinatory prose, the staggering physical and emotional emptiness of drug addiction represents the escapist impulse turned savagely back upon itself, leading inexorably to nihilism, anhedonia, and the eventual nullification of the addict's essential humanity," said Ellen Weston, a media consultant for C&C Marketing in L.A. "This is why we're seeing passages from Naked Lunch featured in the new print campaign for Reebok."
Continued Weston: "Perhaps Lou Reed put it best when he said, 'Heroin will be the death of me / It's my wife, and it's my life.' For Reed, life and love become the same as death, and this 'living death,' if you will, really resonates with the American buying public in a deep and powerful way. It's not surprising, then, that there's such a huge bidding war between Coke and Pepsi for rights to Johnny Thunders' 'Chinese Rocks.'"