The Grammy ads: see how Amazon, Apple and Target fared on music's biggest night

Recording Academy's Play the City promo

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards featured plenty of music and powerful moments, including white roses and Kesha’s emotional salute to the #TimesUp, Hillary Clinton reading from Fire and Fury and Bruno Mars cleaning up the awards. Before and in between were some entertaining, amusing and odd moments, delivered by some of the world’s biggest brands.

A preview leading up to the big night, which returned to New York for the first time since 2003, was a technological marvel from the Recording Academy, the organization that puts on the awards. The Academy, along with long-time creative partner TBWA\Chiat\Day, installed sophisticated software, multiple cameras and an augmented reality screen into a specially outfitted Uber to play New York City like an instrument. Triggered by the people and objects outside the window, through next-generation computer vision software as the vehicle moved along each route, musical notes played and graphics flashed on the window, which featured a musical stave.

During the show, most of the ads took second place to the fired up musical performances, but a few stood out, either for length, star power or odd nature.

The star power came from one of the world’s richest men, as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos made an appearance in a 30-second teaser ad for the Super Bowl. In the spot, a woman asks her Alexa assistant about the weather, and Alexa promptly loses her voice. Bezos comes on screen with concern about his company’s AI innovation and is assured by staff that a fix is coming. Viewers must tune into the big game to learn the solution.

Since the night was all about music, Target took a lengthy yet subtle approach to branding, featuring its #MoreMusic movement. Aside from the iconic Target bullseye and the #MoreMusic tag, it was essentially a full-length video for the country-meets-electronic dance tune ‘The Middle’ by Zedd and Maren Morris. Said Rick Gomez, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Target: “Music is – and always has been – an important part of Target’s DNA. It serves as a powerful way to connect with our guests. This year, we wanted to mark the Grammys’ 60th anniversary by celebrating something really special: a one-of-a-kind mashup that brings together two different genres through a song that many musical fans are already playing on repeat.”

Old Spice went bizarrely French, with Wieden+Kennedy’s ‘Red Sweater’, which had no subtitles as it told the story of a lonely French woman who sniffs a sweater and thinks about the man she met who wore Old Spice. She named her dog after him, but he is lost and all the women in the village help her look for the dog. Of course, if you don’t understand French, it’s essentially just a very strange scene of women scurrying around a picturesque village. The ad showed up after the Grammys on social channels with subtitles, though they only make the ad slightly less odd.

Apple used fun technology for its music-focused spots, playing on the trend of animoji karaoke. The animoji Face ID technology on the iPhone X uses your emotions to make animated versions of yourself, and with it you can sing along with the hits. One ad featured a happy alien face singing Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ backed up by a chorus of unicorns.

The other had a dog emoji rapping Migos’ song ‘Stir Fry’ backed by a very street poop emoji and a nimble fox.

For more creative ads leading up to advertising’s biggest day, the Super Bowl, check back often to our Creative Works page.

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