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Agency Life

Music to our clients’ ears

Over my nearly (ahem) four decades in the ad business, I’ve written tons of jingles. Presided over original music sessions from Nashville to New York. And spent hundreds of hours listening to and selecting stock music and sound effects — all to create that elusive emotional connection between our clients’ brands and their consumers.

Boy, have times and budgets changed. Weeks of lead time and wads of cash to create one-of-a-kind audio tracks that stuck in your brain are now virtually unheard of (unless you’re selling cars, beer, airlines or cosmetics). Today, Garage Band, Pro Tools and a plethora of music libraries fill the void cheaply, quickly and — I must admit — conveniently.

But through it all, the functionality of music in advertising hasn’t really changed all that much. David Huron of Music Quarterly defined four of its purposes as far back as 1989. First, music entertains us: Do you hear that electronic score lifting Kia’s dancing hamsters to cult status? Music also provides structural continuity for a story line. Think VW’s Darth Vader spot with the costumed kid who actually believes he started his dad’s Passat using The Force.

Music creates memorability as well. Thirty years after the first “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” lyric was sung, it’s still in use! Music has even become part of our lexicon, mixing speech and song to not only sell product but to explain — even encourage — unexplainable behavior. I give you, “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”

The point is, the right mix of music will always help convey our clients’ brand personalities in a most engaging and enriching (ka-ching!) fashion. That is, until one of them tries to leverage the Harlem Shake. What’s up with that?

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