Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Commercial Music & Sound: Top ten mistakes agencies can easily make regarding music for spots

10. “Music is only important if your brand is trying to be cool.“
But who’s not cool? Visa, one of the most conservative brands in the space won accolades for its use of the Pixies Spanish language song “Isla de Encanta” in its 2010 World Cup running man spot, not because it was cool (which it was) but because it so perfectly fit the vibe of the spot, with an energy and strength that really set the spot apart. Cool was only in the mind of the viewer.

9. “The artist and lyrics have to match perfectly with the ad or it won’t work.”
Maybe not always. The song “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake graced the ad that is commonly called the “Commercial of the decade”, the VW Cabrio spot “Milky Way”. The song has an eerie, otherworldy calm quality, which is fitting, since it’s about death and is sung by an artist descending deeper and deeper into a psychosis from which he would not recover. He died from an overdose of amitriptyline, an anti-depressant long before the song went on to win award after award as the defining track in a great campaign. Royal Caribean Cruis lines used Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” a song about shooting up heroin, as a brand building tune for their commercials, earning them some finger wagging from the critical public. But the average person didn’t care. They remembered the track, sales went up and they hummed along.

8. “We have to own the song in its entirety if we want to use it.”
Or Not. Chris Brown's top 10 hit “Forever” was actually an extension of a jingle done for Wrigley's via Translation Marketing. Wrigley's apparently paid for the recording sessions for the updated re-do of the "classic" Doublemint jingle from the 1960s. The campaign also included Ne-Yo doing his take on a Big Red jingle and Dancing With the Stars "country singer" Juliana Huff's take on the Juicy Fruit jingle. Sometimes the fact that a jingle done for your brand has a life afterward can only add to the strength of the song’s positioning and cultural relevance.

7. “Music in our work can’t tackle serious issues.”
Or maybe it can.'s release "Yes We Can” teamed artist with director Jesse Dylan to create a powerful anthem detailing Barack Obama’s white house run and the strength of the imagination leading it. Including almost 40 celebrities, from John Legend, Scarlett Johansson, Herbie Hancock to Nick Cannon, the song reached all across the country and drove to a deeper truth. It showed that people can very much enjoy a little serious in their escapist musical selection.

6. “This is going to be complicated.”
Not always. The 2011 Hyundai spot “New Thinking, New Possibilities” came equipped with a simple yet elegant piano track, written and performed by Vanessa James to the commercial. No million dollar budgets or long production cycles- Just a catchy piano piece for a good spot.

5. “I have to hire all the artists personally.”
Or you can work with a composer that knows what he or she is doing. Film composer Alex Heffes, for example, has collaborated with many artists, including Ryuichi Sakamoto andYasmin Levy. On the soundtrack to the Audi A6 “Manipulation” spot, Regina Spektor hums away, creating a powerful mood. Composers like Heffes and Vince Lawrence, a Chicago based film and television composer, often have the connections needed to bring character and life to your spot in ways you didn’t expect.

4. “Our Jingle is classic, we shouldn’t touch it.“
Or maybe you should. The State Farm “Like a good neighbor” mnemonic is one of the catchiest and easily memorable ones in advertising. Most brands would leave it alone. But when State Farm reached out to a new generation with a series of playful that featured hipsters invoking their State Farm agent they wrapped them with a great 8 bit techno version of the mnemonic that created a modern and kitschy appeal perfectly matching the spots.

3. “People will get the idea without sound.”
They might. The PunchDub Volkswagen 2010 Superbowl spot included Stevie Wonder, Tracy Morgan and every possible type person you could think of. It was fun and funny and built flawlessly on an old game that we all remember from childhood. It had everything it needed to resonate. Why bother with “Two Weeks”, the catchy Grizzly Bears track that accompanied it? Because it worked and created that one additional level of entertaining and memorable that brought the spot home.

2. “Music really doesn’t matter.”
Right. But taking a look through the Diet Coke Commercial that premiered on the 2010 Oscar telecast without sound reveals a very different commercial than with sound enabled. Temper Traps “Sweet Disposition” Drives the spot and keeps it from feeling like a series of disconnected stock footage pieces. And when the song picks up and flies, so does the spot. Effortlessly.

1. “This is going to be expensive.”
Or Not. Calling Slang music can connect you to a professional who can try and connect you with the right tone, the right artists and the right price for your project. Many music houses overcomplicate digital rights and placements , making them as costly as large scale campaigns. Slang can work with you to ensure that your work has musical life at a reasonable rate.