Country promotion executives spent much of Jan. 29 looking for adds at terrestrial radio, but the night before, the ads making a difference for the genre took place on TV.
Maren Morris, Reba McEntire and Jon Pardi made notable appearances in spots that debuted during the Grammy Awards’ commercial breaks on CBS. And Dolly Parton‘s “9 to 5” got new usage as supporting music for IBM Cloud.
McEntire became the first female celebrity to portray Colonel Sanders in a KFC ad, donning the trademark goatee to push the chicken chain’s new Smoky Mountain BBQ flavor. The ad featured the Sanders version of McEntire singing in a country club and tossing a cowboy hat to the real-life McEntire, seated at a front-row table.
Morris joined two electronic-pop acts, Zedd and the duo Grey, to debut a new video for “The Middle,” an ultra-catchy tune introduced in conjunction with Target. A truncated spot ran three times, teasing just 12 beats in advance of the full commercial, which concluded with an overhead shot of people dressed in red and white to re-create the Target logo.
Parton’s crossover song, the theme for her 1980 movie debut, backs images of office workers, a bicyclist and characters from Sesame Street while promoting the IBM Cloud service.
Pardi’s ad was, perhaps, the biggest surprise. He appeared in support of TheTruth.com, a campaign to further erode the standing of the tobacco industry. The spot documents the marketing approach of cigarette manufacturers who prey on “less-educated” people who have “nothing to look forward to.”
“Just ’cause they see you that way doesn’t mean you have to be that way,” says Pardi in the spot.
He doubled down on the message by tweeting in the middle of the show, saying he wanted “to make everyone award of Big Tobacco’s exploitation of lower-income communities. Proud to join the battle.”