We all know the drill, and we’re all guilty as charged: The commercials come on and the phones come out. Now, more than ever (other than the Super Bowl), there is little to no incentive for viewers to pay attention to ads, be they on live TV, streaming or FAST channels. A 2022 study published in Marketing Science analyzed 4 million ad exposures across a year and found that although the vast majority—70% of viewers—technically were exposed to the ads, the research revealed that they’re doing everything and anything to avoid watching the commercials. While older viewers change channels, millennial and Gen Z audiences tend to check their phones, tablets or laptops during commercial breaks.
As inflation remains high and advertising budgets get squeezed, it’s more important than ever to find ways to make your media projects, and therefore your brand, stand out. Let’s consider using the power of music.
Music is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to advertising. Here at Musicbed, as a music licensing platform that connects emerging indie artists and leading composers with agencies and brands, we believe that with the right music you can inspire eyeballs to flick back to the TV screen and keep them there.
The power of retention, emotion
Research has shown that the parts of our brain that process music are also used for memory and emotion. When Ford rereleased its Bronco in 2020, the brand needed music that would match the urgency and the passion of the creative, a track that would adequately complement the return of this icon. Ford wanted a media spot, and the soundtrack that went along with it, to be so compelling that a viewer couldn’t help but stop and take notice.
“We wanted the music to tell you how to feel about Ford Bronco,” said Adam Crouch, former Wieden+Kennedy and current Anomaly senior copywriter. “We tried a lot of things. We tried hip-hop tracks over it. We tried classic rock over it. We tried weird songs like ‘Crazy Horses’ by the Osmonds, just to see what it would be like. There was always this thing that wasn’t quite working. We came to the realization that if we’re telling you a new thing to think about the Bronco, we should be giving you a soundtrack that’s new.”
What was key—and which aligns with advice I often give to clients—is that the music partners with the visuals helps define the story. Ford wanted a score with just the right amount of big, and being able to work directly with Taubert made a huge difference.
When it comes to the purpose of music in advertising, there are two directions you can take. Sometimes you want the track front and center, and sometimes you need it to get out of the way. For Nike’s Emmy Award-winning spot “You Can’t Stop Us,” the brand worked with Musicbed artist Cowboys in Japan to adapt a portion of their track, “Daylight.”
This song did a particularly good job of doing everything it was supposed to do and nothing more. It set the tone, it created emotion and it gave goosebumps when you needed the goosebumps. But most importantly it let the message and the visuals stand in the spotlight. The result was a song that amplified the raw emotionality of the commercial, the struggles and triumphs we all face, both in sports and in life, without ever being bigger than the message itself.
Employing uniqueness, freshness
If budget wasn’t a factor, of course most would instinctually opt for a Grammy-award-winning or Top 40 track over something unknown. But here’s the thing: Even with all the money in the world, it’s still a better move to work with emerging musicians. I’d love to see us get back to a place where agencies are breaking artists—where the first time someone hears a song isn’t on the radio, but rather via your media spot.
Think about when someone’s first memory of a song is associated with a brand or a product—the emotionality, the connection gets amped up to the nth degree. When you choose a pop song that’s already topping the charts, that song won’t be associated with your product in anyone’s mind like it would if that track became a hit after the fact.
Apple commercials are the perfect example, featuring artists on the rise and just on the edge of making it big. The spot with the mom running to film her son and the kid riding his bike around the neighborhood stand out in recent memory. Ads like these create a moment that can’t be replicated with a song that’s already a in the Top 40.
As a former creative director, I’d like to encourage us all to roll the dice a little. I can’t tell you how excited I feel every time a client partners with one of Musicbed’s emerging artists to create and introduce a new track to the world. It’s more cost-effective than licensing a massive hit, and there’s the opportunity to truly hit a home run by connecting your brand with something innovative and fresh.