The ad gurus

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If you're a hockey fan and have been following the 2009 NHL playoffs, you've probably seen the Versus ads featuring the music of Explosions in the Sky, the Austin-based instrumental rock quartet. If you're like most, you probably didn't know who the band was but simply thought "man, that was a kick ass commercial."

The inspirational spot features the voice of some old, weathered coach contrasting the theories of evolution and competition over a spectacular video montage of sports highlights. Check out the full, unedited version below. The sampled track is "First Breath After Coma," off Explosions' 2003 release, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.

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Rarely does a commercial give me chills, but this one does every time.

Now, soapbox just for a minute. I've never fully understood the criticism of an artist's decision to lend music to marketers, especially in an era where musicians aren't always fairly compensated for their day jobs.

The Versus ad, to me, is a work of art. The dramatic, sweeping guitar anthems of Explosions in the Sky serve as the perfect backdrop to what I consider real-life theater at its finest. Sports. We've seen it before (the band arranged the score to the 2004 film Friday Night Lights).

I have no idea how much cash the Postal Service has pocketed for those UPS 'white board' spots, but given the extensive, multi-year life of that campaign, there's no way I'm turning down that offer.

Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses (Neighborood Theatre, June 17) had an interesting take when asked about Ford Motor Company's use of their song for a Ford Edge advertisement.

“My personal stance is that once that music is recorded and released to the world then I don’t really care where it goes," said Bridwell in a 2007 interview with Pitchfork Magazine. "'The Funeral' has been licensed to death at this point and if somebody wants to throw down some duckets for it, then feel free. It also beats the hell out of stealing batteries from Wal-Mart to sell them back for eight bucks.”

Some other cool name brand / rock star collaborations include the Teddybears' "Punkrocker" (Cadillac commercial), DeVotchka's "How It Ends" (Gears of War 2) and the Crystal Castles' "Air War" (Toshiba). YouTube them.

We're all stuck watching commercials, so I have no problem if a talented musician helps make them a little more tolerable.

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