In the 70’s Stephen King, Head of Global Planning at JWT, went about radically changing the way Agencies thought about developing an idea. Faced with new platforms and opportunities he appreciated that if brands were to differentiate themselves across all executions it would demand a deeper understanding of the meaning of a brand, how it worked and how it was perceived. It meant learning new ways of working by consistently applying a set of strategic set of visual rules. I am sure that there was a predictable pushback from creatives worrying that they were being corralled and restricted. Today it is a unilaterally adopted procedure we call ‘Branding’ that enables any teams around the world to craft visual narratives across multiple platforms, that are understood wherever their customers are in the world.

But whilst Millward Brown, the Ad Industry’s global Research company continually publish data that shows that sound is 41% of the total creative execution, for 40 years, creative teams have chosen music based on personal taste and subjective decision-making. This is often at the last minute in the editing suite, with no checks and balances on whether the music actually works.

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For years, brands accepted this way of working, because it appeared they had no choice. But, with a closer eye on the ROI and new methods of research, they are finding out that these final music choices may not be achieving the effectiveness that they need, and mores the point, have proven to be expensive mistakes. In fact, it looks like only 92% of brands seem to be happy with their agencies on cost efficiency scores. 

Up to recently, audiences too accepted and watched these commercials with the only escape being the on/off switch on the TV! Today, audiences wield a different kind of control. They are watching and selecting personalised content on a multitude of platforms. They rarely watch live broadcast TV, have a FF button that enables them to avoid all commercials, can now ‘Skip Ad’, after four seconds online and even install ad blockers. (Campaign magazine pointed out ad blockers are costing the industry billions in lost revenue annually.)

Personalised content viewing is the fastest growing sector in broadcast. As this area continues to grow, truly effective advertising will demand different soundtracks for different audiences. The music will have to resonate on a personal level and to happen in less than four seconds.

The good news is that musicians have been doing this for the last 300 years. Great intros, memorable middle eights and ‘earworm’ chord progressions – they’re called hooks for a reason. Music for advertisers is now a mainstream subject. Agencies are beginning to appreciate that finding a track that supports their visual narrative is simply not enough with today’s consume. Music is one of the few tools left that will connect and engage potential customers in less than 4 seconds, before they ever have the chance to see the visuals. Finding the right music that will do this in the shortest time, is now a ‘have to.’ See if you can guess the tracks below after only listening to the first 4 seconds, I bet you get all of them!

Today, if Advertisers are to stay relevant, just as in the 70’s, they know that they are having to rethink how they can engage very quickly with very specific and disparate target audiences. Music is becoming significantly more important. Both the Rights Owners and the Agencies will need to adapt. Sound Branding is a start.

– Ruth Simmons