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.
iV/iV2, based 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!
Seriously, Linh, why did it take you so long to find this?
To continue the conversation started in my previous post, let’s take a look at a more recent article on the influence of music in advertising: The Power of Music. This was written in October 2013 by Les Binet, Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen, and Paul Edwards. Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen teaches Psychology at the University of London, while Les Binet and Paul Edwards work for Adam & Eve DDB UK and Hall & Partners UK, two leading global branding agencies. The article explains how, proven by the authors’ research, music in commercials influences the viewers’ explicit and implicit perception of the brand. Their findings suggest that: 1) TV ads with music work 10-30% more efficiently in gaining attention and improving brand attitude/recall than those without music, and 2) the fit between the music and the brand is critical. We’re going to focus on their second argument.
Speaking of the powerful effect music has on us, Joel Beckerman, Founder and Lead Composer of Man Made Music, gives us very specific and fascinating insights from effective and ineffective sonic branding examples. He mentioned a notorious backfire in 2005 when Royal Caribbean International featured the song Lust for Life by Iggy Pop in its TV commercial. Let’s take a look at the ad:
Yes, it has a catchy melody and exhilarating rhythm that perfectly describe a family cruise trip. But did you hear the lyrics? No need to replay the ad. They didn’t keep all the lyrics anyway, but here’s what the 1977 punk rock hit is about:
Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease
Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
‘Cause of a lust for life
‘Cause of a lust for life
The song contains references about drug abuse and prostitution, which are indeed VERY appropriate for a family trip. VERY. Although some may argue that Royal Caribbean left out most of the song’s controversial message, and Arnold Worldwide, the agency creating the ad, explained that they were trying to reach out to more young people, nothing could really save Royal Caribbean from huge backlashes from the audience for being inconsiderate and distorting the idea of a fun, innocent family trip. Similarly, Lust for Life then landed on every list of the worst misused songs in advertising.
Advertising critic Seth Stevenson pointed out in an NPR podcast that the crowd were angry at Royal Caribbean rather than at Iggy Pop. In fact, the musician was probably confused when the cruise company wanted to use his song in their commercial but let them do it anyway just because, well, they paid for it. Royal Caribbean and Arnold Worldwide, however, had a higher responsibility for using the song appropriately and wisely to help promote their brand names. The audience was outraged because the advertiser delivered a message that was contrary to the brand image. This supports the argument we’ve been discussing: no matter how great the song is, the music has to fit the brand in order for the ad to be effective.
A strong brand image needs to be distinctive and consistent; thus, companies with products in the same category always strive to differentiate themselves from one another. Within advertising, repeatedly using the same kind of music in TV commercials will create a familiar emotional response and increase brand recognition among the audience. Take a look at these latest commercials by two brewing companies, Budweiser and Heineken, to see how their soundtracks represent their brand personalities:
For the past years, Budweiser’s commercials often feature either a puppy, a horse, or both, with an average farm owner, and applaud the touching friendship between these animals and the man. The music, therefore, is usually a popular country song with slow rhythm and comforting melody, such as I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) in the video above, Let Her Go or Landslide.
Heineken’s commercials, on the other hand, are known for their upbeat, exciting, yet very classy soundtracks, which suit the ads’ creative and fascinating plots. The above Heineken ad features Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro, an Italian song by singer Rita Pavone of the 1960s. The Golden Age and Love Letter are two other songs that were featured in recent Heineken’s commercials. This kind of music confirms Heineken’s target sketch: a charismatic, well-rounded gentleman.
When this ad by Cadbury came out in Britain in 2007, it won several awards for best TV commercial and film. Fairly speaking, its success is attributed to the combination of great directing, acting, costumes, and animatronics that costs approximately £700,000. However, to me it is the soundtrack that steals the show. The haunting melody of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and his signature drum fill were so epic that I remember playing the 90-second-long ad over and over again just to feel the passion “in the air.” This passion alone, without any explanation or plot, matches Cadbury’s slogan: “A glass and a half full of joy.” This was one of the first videos that got me thinking about the power of music in advertising, and it still hasn’t lost its magic on me after all these years. Has it on you?
I have never met a person who doesn’t like music. No matter what type of music we listen to, it can have an incredible effect on us, sometimes in ways we don’t even expect. It can instantly change our mood (or intensify it) and bring back memories that we have long forgotten. Music is so powerful it would be horrifying to think that people can use it to control others. Well, the truth is: that horrifying scenario is happening every day with advertisers being the villains and us the victims. Yes, I am talking about the commercials that we are watching before and after and in between the shows. Think about it. With the picture effect, we sometimes ignore the soundtrack of the commercials, but it is still there, familiarizing us with the brand, attaching a feel to the product, luring us into thinking “Ohhh this deodorant makes me feel so intellectual, I have to check it out!” Back to the villains – victims scenario, I was just being dramatic. Advertising to me is an art, and obviously, so is music. Therefore, I will dedicate this blog to analyze the impact of music in advertising with a focus on TV commercials.