October 24th 2016

Bob Dylan's Advertising History.

Posted by Will Shadbolt

In case you missed it, Bob Dylan (yes, the singer-songwriter) is the first American since Toni Morrison in 1993 to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Articles on his life, whether or not his lyrics count as literature and if he will accept his prize have sprouted up in print and online, but one aspect of his life has not received similar attention: advertising. 

He is not the first Nobel laureate in the category to be featured in ads. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck appeared, predictably, in ones for alcohol. Dylan, though, has shed his rebel image and embraced advertisements, especially post-2000, in a way they never did. 

Some of his early notable roles include commercials for Victoria’s Secret and Apple Music. 

The Apple Music one from 2006 features young adults in shadows (an early stage of the company’s now iconic silhouettes) dancing while Dylan jams. In addition to advertising Apple’s service, the commercial also served as a promotion for his album “Modern Times,” which had just released that year. 


An ad for Pepsi begins with old videos of him shown mashed together with ones of Will.i.am. Old clips of kung fu fighting and skateboarding are interrupted by shots of contemporary people doing the same activities. In the background, a Will.i.am. cover of Forever Young, featuring some of Dylan’s original vocals, plays. It ends with two girls drinking a Pepsi as a announcer says, “Every generation refreshes the world.” 


In 2007 and again in 2014, Dylan turned his eyes to a different industry: automotive. In the past ten years we’ve seen him in Cadillac, Jeep and Chrysler spots. 

Cadillac, airing originally in 2007, shows the singer-songwriter driving through a rugged, western landscape. Dylan eventually pulls over in the desert, walks around and says, “What’s life without the occasional detour?” The end, much like the Apple Music ad, has a plug for “Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour” in addition to the vehicle.


In contrast, Dylan is not physically featured in the Jeep ad. Instead, his song “Motherless Children Have a Hard Time” can be heard during the commercial. Shots of people, mostly outdoors, appear on screen as a voice reminiscent of Dylan’s talks about growing up and the world growing smaller. “Only…it isn’t,” says the announcer. “The horizons haven’t gone anywhere. The tools you need are right here, so you can throw yourself at the world headfirst…again.” It then showcases the Jeep Cherokee. 

His most recent auto spot, which played at the 2014 Super Bowl, had Dylan advertising the Chrysler 200. He asks rhetorically, “Is there anything more American than America?” He goes on to say, “Detroit made cars, and cars made America.” So, he contends, while other countries specialize in certain trades, like beer brewing, America will build your cars. The end card has Chrysler’s logo along with the tagline “America’s Import.”


Who knows what direction Dylan will follow after his Nobel win. Perhaps he’ll appear in more vehicle advertisements and introduce himself as a Nobel laureate. Like Dylan, we at Giovatto Advertising are no strangers to automotive advertising. In fact, with over 27 years of automotive advertising experience, we’ve been in the industry longer than he has. In just three months, we can grow your business by 20%. So, following Dylan’s words, leave the beer-making to Germany, the car-building to America, and your advertising to Giovatto.

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