Feb 17, 2013, 06:19

In one fell swoop, Deutsch LA’s usage of the song “Down the Road” for Dr. Pepper  leapfrogged every other soft drink brand in terms of music licensing…at least this month.  Check out all of the slices, dices and cuts in this music track, originally released in June of 2012 by a group of French “turntablists” who call themselves C2C:

The Ad Campaign

In 1981, Dr. Pepper released one of the most infectious jingles of all time, performed onscreen by actor David Naughton (who soon after starred in the movie American Werewolf in London) and written by Barry Manilow. The song was called “I’m a Pepper”. I was a kid when it debuted and even though I’m not  a lyrics person, I can still sing 80% of this from memory.

Dr. Pepper now tips their spicy cherry hat back to that campaign while embracing some of the modern branding tools that let us customers get involved. You can go online and customize a Dr. Pepper T-shirt that says “I’m a [fill-in-the-blank]”. You can submit an online form to explain what makes you one-of-a-kind and get the chance to be featured in their TV ads. Participants so far have included Jen Mayfield, a roller derby queen and mother of five; professional air-guitarist Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard; Mikaela Mayer,  female boxing medalist and no-brainer casting choice for upcoming Evil Dead films; and some guy who stands on beaches attracting seagulls with bread slices stuck to his body.

Origins of the Song

C2C did not respond to our inquiries about the song for this article. So I’ll just dig into some of the musical science that explains why this track work so well.

When I wrote jingles in the 90’s, I remember sadly realizing that my ad agency clients didn’t get nearly as excited by cool chord progressions as I did. They cared more about melody, rhythm and instrumentation. That’s fine, but it’s not without some vindication that C2C’s “Down the Road” is the third hit song to use the same beat-your-chest chord progression that Kanye West did for his mega-hit “Stronger”.  Chord progressions do matter! This particular progression first made people go bonkers when Daft Punk came out with “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. This is geeky music-theory stuff, but just listen to the basic progression played on a piano:


Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger chord progression

Making music is like making food. And we’ve just uncovered the fundamental meat-type used in three popular (and seemingly different) dishes.

Licensing the Song

Interestingly, “Down the Road” is not the official Dr. Pepper “One of a Kind” campaign song. That distinction goes to the formulaic “Vinyl Hearts” by I Am, which will neither ruffle any client feathers nor stick in anyone’s head.

The ground-breaking video mash-up above was actually a fringe project recommended by Deutsch which their client, at least in my opinion, had the wisdom to keep an open mind about and just let happen.

“There had been a lot of back and forth searching for the right song for this”, explained Dave Rocco,  a member of Deutsch’s creative team who served as music supervisor on the spot.  “We heard so many tracks and nothing was right.  I had a final round of songs I wanted to play for the creative’s and we all sat in a room.  One by one they went by and nothing was perfect.  Then I basically said, ‘Here is another one’.  I told them it was different, and they might hate it, or love it.  They loved it.”

I asked Deutsch LA if there was any one individual involved in the project to whom they wanted to give special recognition. “Universal Republic was a tremendous partner in making this happen”, said Rocco. “Also, Brett Craig, the Group Creative Director.”


We started 2013 hoping for a TV spot that would jump out of our TV speakers and beg to be featured in this series. A big thanks to Dr. Pepper and the creative team at Deutsch LA for giving us that very spot and being the first major brand to present this song on a national level. Congratulations, team on a job well done!



Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of http://www.musicrevolution.com, a production music marketplace with over 21,000 tracks online where media producers, video producers, filmmakers, game developers, businesses and other music buyers can license high-
quality, affordable royalty-free music from an online community of musicians mbielenberg@musicrevolution.com.

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