Copyright: Waits V. Opel
"Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad -- ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor."
In April 2005, Adam Opel AG (a European subsidiary of General Motors), launched a campaign promoting its latest Opel Zafira model. The Scandinavian (Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland) TV commercials featured a soundtrack with the theme of Brahms' "Wiegenlied". The song, performed in English by a yet unidentified German singer, was "similar to the style and sound of Tom Waits". Previous to the campaign, Waits had apparently been approached, but to nobody's surprise he had refused to participate in the advertisements. On September 15, 2005 Waits announced he had filed suit against General Motors' Opel and the ad agency McCann Erickson(1) in Frankfurt, Germany.
Tom Waits: "Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad -- ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor. Currently accepting in my absence is my German doppelganger. While the court can't make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers."(5)
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Scandinavian ad men incur the wrath of Waits(2)
Opel cars is in hot water after it screened advertisements in Scandinavia featuring a soundtrack spookily similar to the style and sound of Tom Waits. Even the 'impersonator's singing voice was a close match. Waits is now taking legal advice and has issued the following statement:"In answer to the many queries I have received: No, I did not do the Opel car commercial currently running on TV in Scandinavia. I have a long-standing policy against my voice or music being used in commercials and I have lawyers over there investigating my options. But I got to tell you, it doesn't look good. This is the third car ad, after Audi in Spain and Lancia in Italy. "If I stole an Opel, Lancia, or Audi, put my name on it and resold it, I'd go to jail. But over there they ask, you say no, and they hire impersonators. They profit from the association and I lose time, money, and credibility. What's that about? "Commercials are an unnatural use of my work... it's like having a cow's udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating." Waits was informed of the ad after fans contacted his label, many assuming it was the man himself. Waits isn't exactly unfamiliar with the legal process - over the last 20-or-so years he has taken a series of successful legal actions preventing his music and image from being used in association with commercial products.
Tom Waits Objects to Another TV Ad(3)
Tom Waits, who has successfully sued in the past over the use of impersonations of his voice and musical style, is now taking on Opel, a European subsidiary of General Motors, in response to a new ad. "I have a longstanding policy against my voice or music being used in commercials," Mr. Waits said in a statement this week, "and I have lawyers over there(4) investigating my options." Mr. Waits has sued Audi over imitations of his voice in commercials, and in 1993 he won a $2.5-million suit against Frito-Lay for a Doritos ad. In a statement, Opel responded, "We actually are surprised about the fact that Tom Waits considers the music that goes with the current TV commercial 'Lullaby' for a range of Opel cars as a potential misuse of his voice and style of singing." Opel said that the underlying music was by Brahms, that it had not approached Mr. Waits and that the only celebrity singer it had considered was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. "But before even starting any negotiations, a Frankfurt-based singer was found who delivered an excellent rough voice interpretation for the 'Wiegenlied' theme in English," the company added, referring to the Brahms "Lullaby." Mr. Waits said: "If I stole an Opel, Lancia or Audi, put my name on it and resold it, I'd go to jail. But over there they ask, you say no, and they hire impersonators.
Tom Waits Files Suit Against General Motors' Opel and Ad Agency for TV Commercial(5)
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 15 / PR Newswire- First Call-- Tom Waits, the gravelly voiced, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, has filed suit against General Motors' Opel and the ad agency McCann Erickson in Frankfurt, Germany for producing and broadcasting a series of car commercials that used a perfect impersonation of Waits' singing voice. Waits had been approached several times and refused to participate in the advertisements. After the defendants were told that Waits has a long-standing policy against doing commercials, their agents hired a soundalike singer to imitate Waits, according to the lawsuit. The commercials were produced in Germany, and aired throughout Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway in late winter and early spring of this year. Among other claims, the suit charges the defendants with violating Waits' personality rights under German law. Waits seeks recovery from defendants' ill-gotten gains, including their profits. This action is supported by a recent German case involving misuse of the iconic Marlene Dietrich's personality rights. In April of this year, Waits issued a press release to assure confused fans who had mistaken the soundalike for him that he had not done the ad or changed his policy to keep his music, voice and image out of commercials. General Motors (the parent company of Opel) countered by claiming in the press that it did not seek out Waits or intend to use his voice, but the facts disclosed in Waits' new suit depict an ad agency and its client determined to bring Tom Waits' unique voice to their campaign. "Apparently," Waits said, "the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad -- ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor. Currently accepting in my absence is my German doppelganger. While the court can't make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers." Tom Waits
The ad suit was settled in 2007, with Waits apparently donating the net proceeds to charity.
Waits Settles Ad Suit(6)
Tom Waits has settled his lawsuit against the carmaker Adam Opel AG and a German advertising agency over television commercials that he says mimicked his vocal style without his permission. The ads, made two years ago by McCann Erickson Germany for Opel, a division of General Motors, showed car owners putting their vehicles away to the sounds of a gravelly, Waitsian lullaby. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but in a statement Mr. Waits - who has successfully sued advertisers in the past for copying his sound - said he would donate his net proceeds to charity. According to the statement, McCann Erickson said, "We respect Mr. Waits and deeply regret any embarrassment this may have caused." Mr. Waits said, "I'm glad to be out of the car sales business once and for all."
(1) McCann Erickson: Gro�er Hasenpfad 44, Frankfurt am Main. Further reading: McCann Erickson official site
(2) Source: "Scandinavian ad men incur the wrath of Waits", by Michael Diver. April 19, 2005. Drowned In Sound.com
(3) Source: "Arts, Briefly - Tom Waits Objects to Another TV Ad" Compiled by Lawrence Van Gelder. The New York Times, Ben Sisario. April 22, 2005
(4) Lawyers over there: Andreas Schumacher (RAe Spie� & Schumacher Berlin), Waits' German lawyer. News item from Spie� & Schumacher site:
- Rechtsstreit zwischen US-amerikanischem Singer/Songwriter und deutschem Automobilhersteller durch gerichtlichen Vergleich beendet. "Durch einen Vergleich vor dem Landgericht Frankfurt a.M ist ein anderthalb Jahre w�hrender Rechtsstreit zwischen einem international bekannten S�nger, Komponisten und Schauspieler als Kl�ger und einem deutschen Automobilhersteller sowie einer international t�tigten Werbefirma als Beklagten beendet worden. Der Automobilhersteller hatte im Fr�hjahr 2005 vorwiegend in Skandinavien Werbespots f�r drei seiner neuen Modelle unter Verwendung des ber�hmten Wiegenliedes von Brahms geschaltet. Diese wurden in einer eigenwilligen Stimme interpretiert, die f�r viele Ohren der des Mandanten von Spie� & Schumacher verbl�ffend �hnlich klang. Der mehrfach mit einem Grammy ausgezeichnete S�nger ist bekannt daf�r, dass er aus Prinzip keine Werbung macht und f�hlte sich durch den Werbespot in seinem Pers�nlichkeitsrecht und seinen Urheberrechten verletzt. Die vor dem Landgericht Frankfurt a.M. nach erfolglosen au�ergerichtlichen Einigungsbem�hen eingereichte Klage hatte mehrere prozessuale und materielle Rechtsprobleme zum Gegenstand. Ist f�r einen in Skandinavien geschalteten Werbespot eines deutschen Unternehmens, durch den sich ein US-B�rger in seinem Rechten verletzt f�hlt, deutsches Recht anwendbar? Sind deutsche Gerichte �berhaupt zust�ndig? Ist eine Pers�nlichkeitsrechtsverletzung auch dann zu bejahen, wenn der Betroffene nicht selber gesungen hat, sondern die in dem Werbespot verwendete Stimme der des Betroffenen nur �hnlich klingt? Ist Urheberrecht einschl�gig? Wie hoch ist ein etwaiger Schaden? Die rechtliche Kl�rung all dieser Fragen wurde durch den nunmehr erfolgten Abschlu� eines Vergleiches, �ber den die Parteien Stillschweigen vereinbart haben, entbehrlich. Der Mandant von Spie� & Schumacher ist es zufrieden: "I am glad to be out of the car sales business once and for all!" Gez. Spie� Januar 2007 (Source: Spie� & Schumacher site. Copyright � Spie� & Schumacher, January, 2007)
(5) Source: "Tom Waits Files Suit Against General Motors' Opel and Ad Agency for TV Commercial" PR Newswire Association LLC. September 15, 2005
(6) Source: "Waits Settles Ad Suit", Compiled by Lawrence Van Gelder. The New York Times: Arts, Briefly. Ben Sisario. January 25, 2007. For further information: Kevin Marks, Attorney at Law. 310.777.4800