Spotify Ads

Advertising, ATEC 2321

Have you ever wondered why Spotify started having customized playlists categorized by mood? It is not just because they want you to have a better experience listening to music, but also due to a marketing strategy called playlist targeting. Check it out here! Or don’t, if you pay for Spotify Premium.

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Who Doesn’t Love Mozart?

Advertising, ATEC 2321

Classical music.

Some despise and refuse to learn more about it. Some like it but don’t know enough to understand it. Some just don’t get it although they’ve tried.

I was scared of it. It always sounded beautiful to my ears, but without the proper training, I couldn’t appreciate it to its fullest potential. My vocal classes bring me closer to classical music and provide me with some basic tools to analyze it. If you’re like me and can’t yet grasp the brilliance of classical music, rest assured that it’s pretty brilliant.

The current situation of classical music encourages the use of it in TV commercials, not only for aesthetic values but also as a means to maintain its influence in media and in society. As the live listening experience plays a big role in appreciation of classical music, concert halls and music festivals have been extending their creative effort to reach the mass audience from very “non-classical” ways:

I am mildly annoyed by the 1st ad because of the lack of variety in their dance moves and because I don’t think the advertiser picked the best classical piece for twerking. However, I cannot deny the influence that the K-Pop group has on a large number of young people, which will help spread awareness of classical music.

Due to the limited access to music in the past, ones who were privileged enough to go to concert halls were usually royal and/or rich. Thus, classical music gives an impression of nobleness and elegance, which is why it is featured in commercials of cars, phones, and other technological innovation ads.

Some of these ads don’t even mention the features of the products, but focus on creating a sleek and innovative atmosphere to suggest a well-off life brought by the use of the products. Moreover, just as classical music takes outstanding cleverness and genius to compose, these products require extreme skills and dexterity to produce. Therefore, putting classical music side by side with technological innovations indicates a matching duo that’s well accepted by the audience

In an attempt to break free from this precedent, Lexus created a backlash when their commercial referred to classical music as old and out-fashioned to contrast to Lexus’ freshness and youth:

Fans were outraged at the ridicule of one of the greatest forms of art, especially when it was Mozart, “who wrote some of the most perfect, refined, classy, timeless, and exciting music ever written.” Lexus then had to revise their commercial as an apology to music lovers and also a proper praise to the glorious classical music.

Classical music also makes great soundtrack for scenes that are larger-than-life, hard to believe, or sometimes even supernatural. Ads with this type of music usually feature gigantic and surreal scenery, spectacular displays, or brilliant man-made creations, like the one in the Japanese phone ad above, or this one:

In case you missed it, that was one very big ad. In this case, classical music playing in the background not only describes a magnificence scene but also creates a comical effect by dramatizing the actions in the videos. Overall, classical music is very serious in nature; therefore, video producers sometimes use it in scenes featuring silly and funny acts to create a dramatic and hilarious contrast.

That were probably the most videos I’ve ever included in a post. Have more examples? Share with me in the comment section below!

Commuter Playlist

Advertising, ATEC 2321

Who else loves blasting music while driving?

I know I would, once I get my driver’s license…

Anyways, in an effort to promote its 2016 ILX’s 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, Acura came up with a social media campaign in which it collaborated with eight musicians to compose a music playlist that matches the intensity and speed of the eight gears:

The campaign, targeted millennials, was executed across multiple platforms including Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud. The artists themselves also utilized their social media presence to advertise for both their music and the car model.

Another great feature of this campaign was that the music is free and downloadable for you commuters! My favorite are #3, #4, and #6. What about yours?

Summoning All Senses

Advertising, ATEC 2321

As people crave to satisfy their senses, advertising also thrives to approach consumers from multiple sides and provoke their reaction in various aspects. Multisensory experiential advertising has done very well in capturing people’s attention and participation and introducing new and creative ways to interact with the audience. TV commercials, though not allowing a full multisensory experience, also take advantage of this technique to promote the brand using different modes: text, image, motion and sound.

In fact, multisensory appeal is considered one of the most important practices in television advertisement, according to Neil Kokemuller, writer and content media website developer. The combination of graphics and sound creates an effect that’s larger than the sum of both parts, as they stimulate the audience simultaneously and awake as many of their senses as possible. In other words, multisensory ads will overwhelm viewers (in a positive way) and pull them into another world that’s full of assets they can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.

Dr. Ryan S. Elder and Dr. Aradhna Krishna from the University of Michigan conducted a research on The Cognitive Effects of Multi-Sensory Advertising on Taste Perception, focusing on food commercial. Their studies suggest that multiple-sense ads lead to significantly higher taste perceptions than single-sense ones, therefore, increase brand awareness, purchase intentions, and brand attitudes. The Marketing Science Institute also explains how waking up multiple senses at the same time plays a big role in engaging viewers, as the complex human body and mind can memorize and recall thousands of different scents, smells, tastes, and the like.

Multisensory advertising is even more important in our era of multi-tasking, when we usually listen to music while working, or watching movies during our meals. We are constantly looking for activities that engage all our senses in order to maximize our experience and satisfaction. Life is getting faster and more exhilarating than ever, as shown in commercials made by global payment business Barclaycard:

My first reaction after watching these was, “I WANT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!”. By ONE I mean one ride, not necessarily a Barclaycard. Still, the larger-than-life-but-somehow-might-be-doable experience shown in the ads, the first-person camera angle, plus the joyful music and realistic sound effects here and there, encourage viewers to imagine themselves experiencing the rides.

Lastly, one way to “cheat” multisensory effects into TV commercials is to record people’s reaction to real-life experiential advertising. Not only do these videos express brands’ creativity, gain lots of attention from the crowd, but they also show brands’ dedication to surprise and please customers, since some of these campaigns require expensive, high-tech features.

Where Has This Been All My Life?

Advertising, ATEC 2321
Sir John Hegarty

Sir John Hegarty

iV/iV2based in Tennessee, USA and Frankfurt, Germany, is an advertising agency specialized in audio branding. In its blog, iV/iV2 features Great Minds On Music, a series of interviews with leading advertising professionals, notably Sir John Hegarty. The series is conducted by iV2‘s President and award winning songwriter Uli Reese, who is experienced in creating music for global brands like Coca Cola, Sony, Reebok, etc. Other than its blog, iV/iV2 also gathers the latest news on audio/sound branding on paper.li and Twitter. These are great resources for those who are interested in the topic of music in advertising, like me!

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Seriously, Linh, why did it take you so long to find this?

Repost: Thai “Sadvertising”

Advertising, ATEC 2321

This is a copy of my Storify post.

As visual technology and cinematography evolve, people’s expectation for films, commercials, video games, and the like also becomes higher. The modern viewer doesn’t only look for pure information and appropriateness but also care more and more about aesthetic values. Therefore, advertising needs to do more than just educating consumers about the products; it needs to deliver stories and provoke emotions that hit people so hard they will remember the brand. That’s how “sadvertising” was born, or as Rae Ann Fera of Fast Company pointed out in her article, “We can’t just be straightforward; we have to reach people emotionally. Now everyone’s crying.”

While Rae Ann Fera provided a very insightful summary of the “sadvertising” trend, she only mentioned the music effect twice, which I don’t think does music justice. Although music is not the main and unique feature of “sadvertising”, it adds a lot to intensify the emotions and trigger the tears. Talking about tears, I want to bring back this gem from 2011:

If you’re not crying right now, then I have failed miserably. Nonetheless, this is how most normal people react to the ad.

There are several analyses of this ad online, but I like this one because it mentions a distinction in culture that made the ad a big hit in East Asia. Nevertheless, let’s focus on the soundtrack of the ad.

This orchestra piece is the instrumental version of Ee Jook Il Nom Eh Sarang, OST of a Korean drama called A Love To Kill. It started out slow with uneven rhythm, creating a sad and serious feel to the commercial. The pitch range is fairly wide, and it reaches its peak when the ad reveals whether the daughter survives or not, which increases viewers’ sentiment. Similarly, the dynamics a.k.a volume rises to a crescendo towards the end of the video, which shows emotional flashbacks of the father and the daughter. All these musical elements play a big role in affecting the viewers’ mood and enhancing their watching experience, as demonstrated by Nina Hoeberichts in her bachelor thesis.

Her thesis also discussed different types of music and when advertisers use them. In this case, the instrumental version of the song is more appropriate than the lyrical one because the lyric is about man-woman love and, more importantly, because the audience needs to focus on the visual and verbal content of the commercial.

I also tried listening to the soundtrack by itself:

It’s a very nice piano piece, but standing alone, it cannot make me cry. Now THAT is the beauty of advertising: a great story and beautiful background music work together to create a masterpiece.

A Day as a Wikipedian

Advertising, ATEC 2321

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

– Aristotle

Most of us are familiar with Wikipedia, the “multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on a model of openly editable content,” according to itself. Everyone with an internet connection can sign up to be a Wikipedia contributor; therefore, not all information found on Wikipedia is reliable and correct. This is the reason why most teachers and professors advise students not to use Wikipedia for researching purposes. However, we can’t deny that Wikipedia has its strengths and, used wisely, can be a great resource and social platform. Today I will talk about my experience being a Wikipedia contributor, or a Wikipedian, as I call it.

What makes Wikipedia special and innovative is that it is an open-source, free-for-all platform where people get to practice writing about topics of their interests. It fulfills the needs of non-scholars looking to share their knowledge with the world without having to go through formal procedures.

For example, from the research I’ve done on music in advertising, I am confident enough to share what I’ve learned with people in my community, not only in the country but around the world. Wikipedia allows me to create or edit articles quickly and globally at no cost. There are plenty of resources on the topic of music in advertising; however, very little of them are shared on Wikipedia. The main community covering this topic has been established, but don’t seem to put too much effort into enriching Wikipedia database. I picked this article, which provides a brief for my blog topic because it is still fairly raw in both content and style, which is easier for a beginner Wikipedian like me to contribute. I first started off with the grammar and styling errors, then moved on the content and added a reliable source collected from my blogroll to back up some of the article’s arguments. The coding system of Wikipedia is fairly simple, mostly because there are plenty of precedents on the site or in the article itself.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 01.13.19

Current issues of the article

Screenshot 2015-04-03 01.53.18

Wikipedia editing screen

The second great thing about Wikipedia is that no one is alone. With a community of 24 million contributors, one can almost find someone with similar interests to co-write and co-edit articles. On the one hand, Wikipedia’s co-editing feature helps the contributors expand their social network and deepen their understanding of the subject. On the other hand, having multiple authors work on the same article also benefits Wikipedia itself as it gathers and synthesizes the opinion of different people, probably coming from different backgrounds, to form a neutral, non-biased voice.

Moreover, the awareness and pride of being part of the Wikipedian community also encourages contributors to write more responsibly and collaborate for the good of all, as demonstrated by Aristotle quote at the beginning of this blog post. There have been 50 revisions of the article I edited, written by 27 contributors including me. Most of us tried to get rid of the grammar errors and improve the style of the original article. Some added categories within the articles, which helps link it to relevant topics. Technical issues such as broken links or citations were also taken care of. Vandalism was found and fixed the same day.

Revision log

Revision log of the article

Whenever there’s teamwork, there’s a question of whether the members cooperate well with each other. However, Wikipedia’s guidelines and the fact that everyone can see and revoke a revision at any time ensure that the latest version is likely to be the best one. Being able to contribute to Wikipedia not knowing how long that contribution will survive the criticism of other co-writers requires bravery and open-mindedness. The incentive of being a Wikipedian as discussed by scholar Stacey Kuznetsov is a sense of “accomplishment, collectivism, and benevolence.” In order to complete this goal, it is best that contributors phrase their opinions in a neutral voice and be patient when discussing with co-writers, especially when you write about issues that base heavily on personal taste like music in TV commercials. Last but not least, prepare to compromise and always practice goodwill.

Identity – Engagement – Currency

Advertising, ATEC 2321

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In this blog post, communication planning specialist Vyshnan Ranjan explained the three main ways in which music affects brands: Identity – Engagement – Currency. Ranjan is currently a member of Carat UK, the world’s first media independent in 1968 and now Europe’s largest media network. He touched on a very important point that I’ve discussed in my previous posts, which is the use of pop music in branding:

“Many brands make the mistake of trying to look modern and cool by whimsically choosing a big pop hit and crudely overlaying it on their ad. This doesn’t show depth of thought and neither does it represent their brand fairly. Currency through music requires a deeper understanding of where your brand fits into the bigger cultural picture in society. It is what music appropriately combines your brand and your message with your target audience’s culture.”

– Vyshnan Ranjan

Visual & Sound

Advertising, ATEC 2321

This post is my collaboration with my friend, Leora. Check out her blog on Art and Popular Culture. Also, pardon us for blogging about Christmas in the middle of Spring.


Just as Christmas is a big time of the year, Christmas commercials also need to be “bigger” than the others, as journalist Eamonn Forde put it, “Ads are not just for Christmas, but the ones that run at Christmas can be the most profitable.” No matter how stringent one may be throughout the year, Christmas is the one holiday that makes people feel generous and pour their money into things that have more emotional value than practical benefit. Taking advantage of this, department store chain John Lewis has been maximizing its emotional branding strategy around the festive season through its TV commercials since 2007. The general theme of these series is how to pick the right gifts for the ones you love, told through sweet, fairy-tale like stories with unexpected twists at the end. John Lewis’ commercial spot for Christmas 2014, not surprisingly, was another big hit. It even won PETA’s Compassionate Marketing Award for featuring the adorable kinship between a little boy and a penguin.

There are no words spoken in the ad to help the viewers understand the story, and yet the ad strongly gets its message across and successfully receives a resounding “awww!” from viewers. The ad builds the story layer by layer while playing a powerful song in the background, which enables people to slowly understand the story without needing a narrator. This is an example of an advertisement that effectively tells a story through both visualization and sound.

The ad is almost a mini film in which the first half sets up the characters and the second half depicts the loneliness that Monty the Penguin feels and how all the knots are untied at the end. Through personification of Monty and the development of the penguin and boy’s relationship, viewers are drawn into the story, just as they are in a movie theater.

Besides from the emotional storyline, the video uses visual techniques to draw the audience in emotionally. For instance, the color palette is neutral and uses similar colors. This technique creates a harmonious ambience which is visually pleasing to the human eyes and helps the audience relate more easily to the message. The soundtrack also adds to the cinematic appearance of the ad because it builds up at just the right moments in the plotline.

John Lewis Christmas TV ad

The ad brings back a melody that is long lost for many generations of music lovers – Real Love, composed by John Lennon and covered by Tom Odell. There is a whole story behind how the song was written not long before Lennon was assassinated and how his wife and fellow members of The Beatles managed to publish the song and pass on Lennon’s legacy. So what makes music, or in this case, Real Love, provoke so much buzz in the advertising as well as the music industry? Because it fits so well with the visual content of the ad.

Firstly, Real Love is an old song, and people naturally feel nostalgic towards the end of the year. They tend to reminisce their childhood with all the joy of Christmas and new toys, which also explains why John Lewis’ commercials usually feature children.

Secondly, there’s dynamic piano instrumental playing for most of the song, and then towards the end when the video reveals the unexpected twist about Monty, violin was added to bring the song to a crescendo and elevate listeners’ emotion. Other musical elements such as the beautiful melody, slow tempo, and Tom Odell’s lingering voice also set the tone and pace for the visual scenes of the ad.

Lastly, in ads where characters don’t talk, advertisers usually utilize lyrical music to communicate the message. In this case, it is almost as if the boy and Monty act out the words of Real Love. The lyrics say “all my little plans and schemes” and “playing with their little toys” as the boy builds his Lego house, colors pictures, and plays soccer, or when the song goes “waiting for love,” the boy and Monty catch sight of random couples on the streets.

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The most interesting thing about this ad is that it does not outwardly push a product. John Lewis is a trusted department store in England and the ad maintains that brand image through a gripping story. It only mentions the brand name at the end when the words “John Lewis” appear on a white background. There is no indication as to who they are or what they do. The story of the ad creates good feelings amongst its viewers and that positive emotion is then carried on to their perception of the department store.

Focusing on the visual and musical qualities of an ad proves to be good marketing choices for John Lewis. This ad and others of its type have resulted in outstanding Christmas sales for John Lewis. In a time where we are inundated with advertisements trying to sell a product, its a breath of fresh air to watch an ad that doesn’t have to try so hard to sell. People relate to the ad simply because it is aesthetically pleasing, no matter how little information it provides. Perhaps other brands will follow suit and create ads that seek to entertain its viewers as well as improve brand image through real art.

The Revolution of Music in Advertising

Advertising, ATEC 2321

What is it that encourages brands and (music) bands to collaborate more and more in the past decade? John Tejada of Adweek had an interview with Joshua Rabinowitz, director of music at Grey Group, and Jared Gutstadt, Jingle Punks CEO, to find out Why Today’s Ads Need Amazing Soundtracks.