Bill Swanston

A few months ago, I was home working on a new TV campaign for Kosair Children’s Hospital — one of our clients located in Louisville, Kentucky.  I was sitting at my computer while my kids watched “American Idol”.  During the show, there was a special guest performance by P’Diddy and Skylar Grey and I heard for the first time their hit single, “Coming Home.”  The song’s lyrics and the soothing voice of Skylar Grey moved me to think, “This would be a great song for a commercial about a young child getting to go home after treatment for a life-threatening illness.”  So, I quickly began to craft the action that might accompany this song.About a week later I was in Louisville presenting our client with a concept about a three-year old stoke patient going home after months of treatment and therapy.  And months of sleepless nights for her parents.  I used this track as a reference piece for the presentation.  They loved it!  Then they asked if I thought we could get this music to use in our commercial.  I hemmed and hawed and said I would try, but we would definitely be able to find a “Coming Home”-themed piece of music that would work as well.  After all, what are the chances of obtaining usage rights to a top-ten hit for a commercial that runs only in Louisville, with a budget that was moderate at best?

But I had to try.  I reached out to Universal Music Group (the publishing company for the composers) to see if we could even come close to affording this piece.  I was immediately told that “Coming Home” was not available for licensing because the copyright was in dispute.  It was in the hands of a bunch of lawyers and could be tied up for months, or even a year.

I actually breathed a sigh of relief because I had a legitimate reason to offer the client other than “you can’t afford it!”  So, we began the arduous process of finding a “Coming Home” song that we could afford and would work with our story.  Each time we presented a new piece of music, the client rejected it.  They had fallen in love with what the piece originally presented and felt that anything else would be second best.

We were less than a month from the beginning of production when I received an e-mail from Universal asking if we were still interested in using the Skylar Grey track for our commercial.  Duh?  Of course, I responded!  The next question concerned money and inquired about our budget.

“Money is no object because we don’t have any,” was my retort.  We settled on a meager amount to take to the composers and the label.  Oh, and to add even more drama, one of the writers who had to approve the deal was Jay-Z.

At this point, I was thinking there is no way this is going to happen.  Four writers and the label would have to split an amount about equal to what you could get for a well-used Ford Taurus.

Then something amazing happened.  Within 48 hours, all the writers and the label said that they were in.  They saw the storyboard and thought this was a worthy cause they wanted to be a part of.  I was awestruck by their generosity.

Calling the client to let them know we had secured the rights to the music was one of those calls you can’t wait to make.  The impossible became possible. We hit a home-run.

The ending was a happy one and the spot turned out great.  But even so, I don’t think I will present another concept using a top-ten hit song to a client again anytime soon.

Check out the finished spot on our website:

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