As with any superstar pop act, The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC were both heavily exploited for advertising during their most active years. Fast food chains, clothing stores, and many other outlets were hungry to slap these pop stars’ faces on just about anything.
Timberlake and the gang were far more prominent in the world of product endorsement, as they appeared on camera and even sang in quite a few commercials during their heyday. One most notable ads showed NSYNC (stranded on a tropical island for some reason) singing the classic a cappella jingle for restaurant Chili’s.
The band did what any shipwreck survivor would do: endlessly sing about their insatiable desire for ribs, punctuating their gluttonous hollers with a mention of barbecue sauce. It’s a beautiful spectacle, really.
The Backstreet Boys performed similar roles in their own commercial endorsements, as seen in a relatively recent Skinny Jean promotion for Old Navy.
Their safe and friendly Caucasian faces worked well with Old Navy’s villainous image, so it seemed natural that the band would sing “Everybody” to celebrate cheap pairs of tight jeans — these pants are for everybody, get it? That tagline makes as much sense as having The Backstreet Boys spring forth from a giant boom box during a fashion show.
But the commercial ridiculousness doesn’t stop there. Chosen for their obvious influence over youth culture, NSYNC appeared in a Superbowl PSA spot for lite beer juggernaut Budweiser.
The band (perhaps commanded by court order) knocks on the door of a confused father in order to caution him about alcoholism and the effects it has on his children. The man has absolutely no idea who these mysterious pretty boys are, so he understandably disregards their warnings about the parental responsibilities of casual beer consumption. The daughter in the ad probably wouldn’t have taken heed anyway, as she’s more concerned about being magically swept away by the pop idols.
The Backstreet Boys had a very different way of affecting the nation’s youth. It seems that at some point during the dark days of the 00s, family pizza chain Chuck E. Cheese licensed the song “Larger Than Life.” The result was something terrifying enough to belong in a Freddy Fazbear Pizza.
Of course the Chuck E. Cheese corporation couldn’t simply play the actual song on its antiquated, vaudevillian stage, so it altered the lyrics to reflect stuffing one’s face with pizza pies. Some standout lines include, “your eating is affecting your density” and “you better think twice before you eat that ball of twine.” Solid advice from the friendly pizza rat.
Thus far, we’ve only focused on these two bands battling it out in largely unrelated product endorsements. But if we are to crown a winner, we’ll need to check out an advertising arena where NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys represented competing brands.
Such a gauntlet came in the form of American fast food. Yes, these two pop group juggernauts joined opposing sides of the age-old battle between McDonald’s and Burger King.
NSYNC (along with superstar Britney Spears) chose to support the home of the golden arches, offering their faces and music to many nebulous advertising materials. One such commercial showed NSYNC and Spears playing an innocent game of Spin the Bottle.
As Britney spins, every member of the boy band uncomfortably anticipates whom that bottle of fate will ultimately point to. Mr. Timberlake is the fateful chosen one, but the ad does beg the question of what happens when the guys start spinning that bottle themselves.
Now we move on to The Backstreet Boys and their support of the Burger King, which was endlessly more interesting than NSYNC and their fast food overlord. Where McDonald’s only offered proprietary music players and disks containing NSYNC’s hits, Burger King took a more fantastical approach for The Backstreet Boys.
In a series of Big Kids Meal toys, the Backstreet Boys were portrayed as mystical superheroes known as the “Backstreet Project Cyber Crusaders.”
The Cyber Crusaders were actually inspired by a one-shot comic book created by Nick Carter and Stan Lee. Backstreet Project followed the adventures of The Backstreet Boys, who, after discovering a set of mystic amulets in the wreckage of a space ship, set out to stop an alien invasion.
And down the rabbit hole we go. In 2000, Stan Lee’s media company produced a series of flash-based webisodes to accompany the Burger King toys. This bite-sized series followed the pop-star superheroes as they defended Earth from the machinations of the evil Darkside Emperor — all written in the trademarked, overblown style of Stan Lee.
Sure, the writing is cheesy and the animation is cheap, but the amount of effort and imagination present in these Cyber Crusader characters surpasses anything NSYNC did in the realm of advertising. With the help of Burger King and Stan Lee, The Backstreet Boys are the winners of advertising.
The video game challenge begins on the next page!