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'Help!' I Need Somebody to . . . Buy My Products?
Posted in Litigation

What is it about commercials that draws customers into the stores?  Will hearing a Beatles tune in the background of a commercial for appliances make you more likely to buy appliances from that store?  HHGregg hopes so!  Last month, HHGregg launched a national advertising campaign using the Beatles song “Help!” as a marketing tool designed to inform consumers that its salespeople are more knowledgeable and more helpful than those at other appliance stores. 

Though HHGregg is not disclosing how much it is planning to spend on its current advertising campaign, licensing the rights to a Beatles song is certainly a creative – and an expensive – endeavor.  In 1985, Ford Motor Co. became the first company to license a Beatles song for use in an advertisement campaign, paying $100,000 for the rights to make a new recording of “Help!”  Just two years later, Nike Corp. paid five times as much for the rights to use an original recording of “Revolution” in an advertisement campaign.  Today, the Beatles still receive royalties on the songs they wrote, but the publishing rights – and profits – belong to Sony/ATV.  And Sony/ATV does not license these songs often.

It is estimated that HHGregg spent between $500,000 and $1 million dollars for the rights to use “Help!” in its advertising campaign.  This amount would have been substantially greater had they used the actual Beatles’ recording, rather than hired a company to produce an original recording.  Some may look at the dollar amounts and think spending that amount of money to license a song is crazy.  Others may argue that the cost is worth it because using a catchy Beatles tune is a way for HHGregg to stand out when it comes to selling “fairly emotionless” products like appliances.  Most would likely agree that in today’s competitive market, it takes creativity and hard work to rise above others.

Proper licensing can save advertisers the costs of litigating licensing rights in court.  If you find yourself needing legal advice or have any questions, contact the Litigation Practice Group at Bingham Greenebaum Doll.

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