A Brief History of David Bowie’s TV Commercial Appearances


You may have read that David Bowie is appearing in a curious TV commercial for Louis Vuitton, in which he sits at a harpsichord and performs “I’d Rather Be High” for an audience of the sort of cashed-up one-percenters who might consider investing in a Louis Vuitton handbag. It’s a strange piece of work, but then, Bowie hasn’t been shy about licensing his music to and/or appearing in advertisements over the years, bless him. Looking back through the history of ads in which he’s appeared reveals a rather curious catalog of products.

Popsicles, 1967 or 1968 (depending on who you believe)

Luv! Everybody needs it! Still, everyone also needs cash, which is why young Davey Jones ended up in this commercial for ice cream just before his career took off. As if the idea of Bowie in a commercial for ice cream weren’t outlandish enough, this was directed by an up-and-coming young filmmaker by the name of… Ridley Scott.

Pepsi, 1987

This campaign coincided with the Glass Spider tour, aka the lowest point of Bowie’s career, and the above ad was dropped by the brand after he was accused of sexual assault during the tour’s North American leg. (He was eventually cleared of all charges.)

XM Satellite Radio, 2001 and 2005

The man who fell to earth! He clearly liked XM, too, because he returned four years later for another commercial, in which he… um, lifts Snoop’s necklace? No, I had no idea either of these existed either. Yes, they’re very strange.

Vittel, 2006

Great commercial. Shame Vittel is owned by Nestlé. Ugh.

Louis Vuitton, 2013

It’s a rather curious choice of song for this lavish Louis Vuitton commercial, given that “I’d Rather Be High” is Bowie’s most nakedly polemic anti-war song since “Running Gun Blues” some 40 years ago. And yet here it is, being used to flog luxury handbags at a sort of baroque latter-day masquerade ball in Venice. What does it all mean?