Driving around earlier this week, I happened to hear the distinctive voice of American Idol‘s Randy Jackson (“Yo, Dawgs”) on my radio, telling listeners about a national contest for the best amateur rendition of the classic “Oreos and Milk” jingle.
Jackson’s participation in an advertising campaign is hardly surprising in and of itself– after all, we got to watch Simon Cowell endorse Vanilla Coke and we’ve seen Ford run a series of spots featuring Idol contestants which become part of what fans evaluate as they judge who should win the talent competition. From the start, American Idol has been closely tied to a range of new marketing and branding strategies.
Upon further investigation, I found the Oreo site online. It turns out that Kraft Foods, the company which makes those delightful chocolate wafers with the vanilla cream inside, is hosting a national competition to identify musical groups who can put their own spin on the advertising ditty. The winning group receive $10,000, the opportunity to record an Oreo radio commercial and hang out with Randy Jackson in Los Angeles in August.
A panel of judges winnowed down the original submissions and now the public is being invited to go to the web and vote on the five finalists. There’s Acappella Gold, a group of soccer mom types in zebra-skin pants suits, doing it up barbershop quartet style. There’s the Chris Allen Band which gave the song a bit of Reggae backbeat and Odysy who perform it with a mix of hip hop and street harmony. The Oreo Cousins do it as a blues number and The Three belt it out to acoustic guitar and percussion.
Each of the videos has the ear-marks of amateur made media — the kind of stuff the RIAA wants to take off of YouTube: most of them have fixed camera positions, poor lighting, and are shot in rec-rooms or other cluttered domestic spaces. The performances that made it this far are pretty good — each has its own flavor and each set of performers seems to be really enjoying what they are doing. The website features a selection of the folks — good and bad — who got cut from the competition along the way.