Last week something very special happened on the Internet. Jean-Claude Van Damme -- martial arts movie star and famed master of the splits -- did what only his legs can do best. Perched between two transport trucks he slowly extended into "the most epic of splits." While going in reverse. To the ethereal sounds of Enya. And it was good.
The video, which has racked up over 40 million views in a week, was in fact a commercial for Volvo. The point was to demonstrate the stability and precision of Volvo's Dynamic Steering, though one could argue it's greater purpose was to demonstrate that, at 53, JCVD is still simply physically superior to all of us.
Athleticism and vehicular performance aside, one of the most remarkable aspects of this ad is how unexpected and how perfect the use of Enya's "Only Time" is. That got us thinking about other amazing uses of songs in commercials. Where licensing a song to an ad was once street-cred suicide, the relationship between advertiser and music artist has changed drastically. Now, bands often look for a commercial deal with the hopes of breaking into the mainstream or paying for a concert tour. That willingness to partner with brands looking to make their ad a little more special than the rest has yielded some entertaining and effective collaborations.
Here, we look at 20 of the best uses of licensed music in ads over the past 20 years and offer a view as to why they worked so well.