CINCINNATI — Help! Some Beatles fans are feeling down about the latest use of a Fab Four song in a commercial — the 1967 peace anthem “All You Need Is Love” highlights a new disposable diaper campaign.
“I just cannot see a Beatles song being used for trivial things ... not Beatles songs!!!!” fan Andy Bonnell said by e-mail from Liverpool, England, the Beatles’ home base.
Such sentiments represent something of a lost cause. A version of their song “Help!” was used in a car commercial in 1985, and the many appearances since then include the late John Lennon’s son Julian’s 2002 cover of “When I’m Sixty-Four” for insurer Allstate Corp. and current Target Corp. store commercials that use a version of “Hello Goodbye” — “Goodbuy” in the ads.
But the “All You Need...” campaign, launched this month for Procter & Gamble Co.’s Luvs diapers, struck a particularly sour note for some fans, who heated up online forums about it. Among the objections is that the idealistic song, popular in the counterculture “Summer of Love” era and among Vietnam War opponents, is being used at the time of another war, in Iraq, to evoke soiled diapers.
“For people who feel that political connection, it comes off as kind of a callous action,” said Angela Natividad, coeditor of adrants.com, a marketing commentary site. “You’ve got the Beatles, which draws like, religious feelings, and you’ve got the war.”
The commercial’s tag line irritates some, too:
“’All you need is Luvs?’ pleeeeease,” wrote “Instant Karla” on the beatlelinks.net’s “fab forum” discussion group.
The Cincinnati-based consumer products company calls the campaign, developed with Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, an upbeat introduction to Luvs’ “Bear Hug Stretch,” offering “premium leakage protection” at no extra cost. P&G is among many companies that often link products to familiar songs — its Swiffer dusters recently used Blondie’s “One Way or Another.”
“Classic songs have been used for some time to connect with the consumer and drive emotion for a product or brand,” said Lisa Jester, a P&G baby care spokeswoman. “Music has a way of connecting us, and making us smile.”
She said the Luvs commercial, showing a diaper-clad toddler wrestling with a stuffed bear as his smiling family watches, was popular in testing with parents, who gave high marks to the music.
Elizabeth Freund, U.S. spokeswoman for Apple Corps Ltd., the London-based group formed by the Beatles that helps guard their legacy, said Sony/ATV Music Publishing (a joint venture of Sony Corp. and Michael Jackson) holds publishing rights for “All You Need Is Love.”
Sony/ATV doesn’t need permission from surviving Beatles or heirs to license the songs in its Beatles catalog. Versions of the song have been used elsewhere, including in a credit card commercial.
Paul Freundlich, a spokesman for Paul McCartney, who shares songwriting credit with Lennon on most Beatles hits, declined to comment on the commercials.
Jester wouldn’t say how much P&G paid to use the song, recorded by a studio group in New York. P&G boosted Luvs’ marketing budget by 20 percent — dollar figures weren’t released — for the multimedia campaign.
Some veteran fans have come to accept such commercials.
“When it was first done years ago, it really bothered everybody,” said Charles Rosenay. “I’m less offended now.”
Rosenay, who organizes pilgrimages to Liverpool called the “Magical History Tours,” said his young children have been introduced to the hooks of Beatles songs by commercials.
“Then they hear the whole song and they love that song. ... It has a positive effect, teaching a new generation about the Beatles,” he said.
At age 23, Natividad is among current fans born long after the Beatles’ 1970 breakup. She questions the context of the Luvs ad, but agrees it could be effective.
“My best friend’s mother thought it was very, very cute, and a lot of mothers will probably feel that way,” she said. “It really depends on the age of people and from what perspective they’re looking at it.”
“Cha-Chi” Loprete of WZLX radio in Boston has been hosting “Breakfast with the Beatles” shows for more than two decades. He says their songs are “works of art; these are songs that really changed a generation and influenced future generations.
“For me it corrupts and contaminates the memories I have, with a recording of ’All You Need is Love’ and it’s about a diaper,” he grumbled. “John Lennon must be rolling over in his grave.”
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