Tom Waits sues Opel over "voice theft" in advert

Tom Waits really hates it when his work is used in a commercial, he has made this very clear and he will always say no. He has a long standing policy against using his music or voice in commercials and said in a statement: "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."

Somehow an Opel ad currently running in Denmark, Sweden and Finland has managed to use a sound-alike to Waits singing a lullaby, possibly thinking that they would get away with it. Alas, Tom Waits fans alerted him to the ad and presto, Opel was served.

Never happy about commercial dilution of his unique style, Tom Waits isn't afraid to sue anyone who might misbehave, in 1994 he sued his own record company for licencing his song "Heartattack and Vine" to a Levis commercial. In '93 it was Frito Lay in the USA who felt Waits wrath. Audi, Germany were sued in 2000 for using a soundalike song and Lancia Italy had a similar case.

In his statement Waits also 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. They profit from the association and I lose - time, money, and credibility. What's that about?"

Opel Zafira - Sleepy Ride / Tom Waits

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (6)

  • deeped's picture

    Have TW copyrighted his voice? I think he's somehow a lot too much in this instance. There is no Waits-song and the voice isn't totally Waits. So f*cked.

    Apr 22, 2005
  • philmang's picture

    i'm guessing he might win this one. the vocal melody is almost directly lifted from franks wild years era stuff - they just threw in the music box to try and cover it up.

    Apr 22, 2005
  • Plywood's picture

    This is a total rip off.
    Pull the spot or pay Tom.
    The whole soundalike shtick is so dirty.

    Apr 23, 2005
  • yaksox's picture

    I wonder if this defense would work: "Who the heck is Tom Waites? We were ripping Rolph the Dog from the Muppets!"

    Apr 24, 2005
  • Dabitch's picture

    brilliant! you should be a lawyer. ;)

    Apr 24, 2005
  • Dabitch's picture

    Currently the 'male' version of this ad is running in Denmark, and this 'female' version hasn't been seen at all lately. The guy version is similar, the guy is so happy about his car he bends down with the car-door just to be able to look at it for a little longer in one scene. The soundtrack is only the music and no lullaby singing at all.
    When I first read this news I had a hard time recalling the singing in the female-ad, where the women "tuck their car in" for the night so I'm not 100% certain that it runs with the voice on Danish TV. It does run with the singing on Swedish TV.

    Apr 29, 2005