Supervisor Spotlight: Ruth Simmons

By The GMS Team

Music supervisors are an elusive breed. They’re some of the busiest people in the business so the chance to get to know them rarely presents itself. Well, that’s what we at the Guild are trying to change. Every now and then we sit down with one of our supervisor members and find out a bit more about them, their role and how they work. This time it was the turn of Ruth Simmons.

How long have you worked in sync?

I have worked in synch for well over 30 years now – I started when synch for adverts was still a complete mystery to be solved!

What was your background before?

I started life as a science teacher and like they say, ‘you can take the girl out of science, but you cannot take the science out of the girl.’ Looking back, this has put me in good stead to look for patterns in how, why and when things happen, and has provided me with the discipline and rigour to think outside of the box.   

How did you get into it?

My husband had a music publishing company and was being asked whether his copyrights could be used for advertising. He asked his various friends working in publishing and none of them had a clue as to how this could work, let alone what to actually charge people! He suggested that I figure this out by going out and trying and sell his copyrights to brands and agencies. My first bite was his track by Dr Hook ‘Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk’ which I pitched to Levi’s – their copy line was ‘talk as you walk.’ All was going swimmingly well until McCann Erickson lost the Levi’s account to BBH and the rest is history with Levi’s using copyright songs for decades now. I like to think that I had sown a seed of creativity in the Levi’s creative psyche!

What is the most interesting project you have worked on?

My very first big license and the only injunction in the history of advertising! This was ‘Chariots of Fire’ for Ford Grenada who were about to launch just before marathon day. Unbeknown to anyone, Clarks shoes decided to release a campaign the day before with a library track inspired by Chariots with children running along a beach. Ford and Ogilvy were not happy to say the least. The worst part is that the track was owned by EMI and the library track was owned by KPM – EMI’s library.

Having the same company on opposite sides of the court was challenging, but for me I learned so much in one lesson. The do’s and don’ts of licensing, myths and facts, how to handle clients and rights holders, copyright, how it works and what to avoid – more than in any other license I have ever done. It was a lesson that would set me up forever and gave me a healthy respect for all aspects of clearance and a nervousness around the phrase – “do you know a musicologist? Wanna know more then call me?”

What is the best use of music in Ads that you have ever seen?

I still totally adore the Guinness ‘White Horses’ campaign and Leftfield’s Phat Planet – both of them are total genius!

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