Aerosmith's Gap ad may be the greatest single appearance by a band in the entire history of advertising

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry in the gap advert
(Image credit: GAP)

Rock music and advertising have always been uneasy bedfellows, with screams of "SELL OUT!" accompanying many a band's decision to lend their music to anyone with a generous marketing budget.

Even the biggest names have succumbed to the lure of the filthy lucre. Led Zeppelin's Rock And Roll was used in a Cadillac commercial. The Who lent Bargain to Nissan and See Me, Feel Me to Claritin. Bob Seger's Like A Rock soundtracked ads for Chevrolet Trucks for years. And Aerosmith pulled in some healthy sync fees in 2001 for supplying Just Push Play and Out of Your Head to Chrysler, who used them in a pair of commercials for Dodge Rams. 

By then, Aerosmith were old hands at this sort of thing. Two years earlier Steven Tyler and Joe Perry had appeared in an advert for The Gap, and it may be the greatest single appearance by the members of a band in the entire history of advertising. 

The ad, for The Gap's Easy Fit jeans, was the latest in a long series of films that featured people dancing and singing in front of a white background. The original spots proved to be extremely popular, and several spin-offs were created, including a celebrity musician series that featured stars like Missy Elliott, Madonna and LL Cool J.

The ad was directed by Mark Seliger and Fred Woodward, who were perfectly qualified to work with The Toxic Twins. Seliger was Chief Photographer for Rolling Stone, and had directed promotional videos for the likes of Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz and Hole with creative partner Woodward, who was art director at the same magazine for more than 14 years. 

The short clip is an absolute joy. Perry takes the back seat, playing a greasy blues riff on slide guitar, while Tyler is completely unrestrained, switching between scat singing and rasping harmonica while beating out a primitive rhythm on a tiny drum kit. "This is beyond easy!" he squeals, as the final notes fade. 

Gap advertising would become a multi-generational affair for the Tyler family. In 2017 daughter Liv Tyler co-directed and provided the soundtrack for Mama Said, a Gap film promoting Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit organisation advocating for equitable maternity care around the world. She also starred in the film, alongside her two-year-old son Sailor and nine-month-old daughter Lula.

The same year, model and musician Chelsea Tyler – Liv's younger half-sister – followed in her father's footsteps by appearing in an ad called Generation Gap, which starred celebrity offspring whose parents had appeared in the original 90s productions.

"It was such an awesome, raw depiction of him and Joe Perry, just being so ridiculous; I watched it again recently and died laughing," she told Refinery 29. "He didn't do a lot of things like that back then. I don't think those two worlds – fashion and rock and roll – were mixing as commonly back then as they are now. 

"Those Gap ads in the '90s were so important for my upbringing, my fashion sense, and my cultural awareness."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.