Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Ad Music, Advertising, Music Industry, Music Licensing, Sonic Branding, Sound of the Brand |


It’s nearly 30 years since BBH’s now very famous us of ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ was synched to a Levi’s commercial. Today, in addition to brand tie-ins, brands around the world are now spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars on buying, licensing or commissioning music for their advertising and marketing to sell their products.

This of course is down to the drive for creating exciting content across so many interfaces below ATL. In a recent study Millward Brown found that consumers consider 42% of their whole commercial experience is sound and 58% sight. Sir John Hegarty has always maintained that it is higher.

Put into those terms it seemed a shame that during AdWeek Europe, held in London last week, just a handful of lectures and seminars featured any music-related content, let alone dedicated sessions to sound branding, music licensing and brand partnerships.

We did however find a glimmer of hope from Spotify who held a discussion called “I’m with the brand”, discussing how brand partnerships can both benefit and destroy artists. Chris Maples VP of Europe for Spotify said that whilst he was behind brands partnering with bands, these relationships needed to be authentic, or as he put it ”You can’t have brand ‘X’ badgering band ‘Y’”.

David Everitt from BBC 6 Music was on the discussion panel and agreed saying: “Brands can help fund artists’ existences and because of that they are more open to stuff. Brands will actively seek out people they like. The more formats, the more platforms, the better.”

Karmarama’s Executive Chairman Jon Wilkins made reference to a recent appearance by Lady Gaga on the Doritos stage at SXSW in which she had someone vomit coloured milk on her.

“I loosely get how it ties in with the brand, but when someone goes and pukes coloured milk onstage, when you’re marketing foodstuffs, I’m not 100% sure how that works. It’s down to empathy and the proximity of the relationship.”

The argument is no longer whether artists should tie-up with brands, as it is a fantastic revenue stream in a dwindling industry, the question is now how brands can create authenticity in these relationships. Pick the wrong artist to partner with and an audience will see through the advert and become disengaged with the brand. So how do you select the correct artist to partner with?

Well, according to the panel, firstly the music has to fit the feel of the visuals in an advertising campaign, but outside of this, brands must find artists who align with their target audience. For instance Lily Allen may have seemed an odd choice for the 2013 John Lewis Christmas advert. For many years she was seen as a party girl, stumbling around London drunk and swearing at paparazzi.

But as she has grown up so too have her listeners, she is a mother now, so too are a huge portion of John Lewis’ customers. So brands must find artists that fit both musically and personally with their target market. The discussion finished with Chris Maples citing a piece of research that found that whilst 78% of brand managers felt that music should be a key part of their campaigns, they spent less than 5% of their budgets on it.

This session seemed rather ironic given the lack of music-based sessions at Advertising Week this year and Spotify’s own contentious relationship with the music industry regarding revenue streams. After a week, the bigger questions like ‘do brands actually know and understand beyond an artists target market how music is actually emoting with their own customer relations?’ were overlooked.

For an industry that starts with consumer research and quantifiable insights, it is strange that an element which contributes almost 50% to the creative output is still being left to intuition, visceral response or worse the music industry’s own commercial agenda.

We would love to hear any opinions on this subject from artists, advertising agencies, record labels, streaming reps and music lovers. Feel free to follow us on Twitter and let us know what you think: @soundlounge