Music and advertising; there's been lots of chat about Bill Hicks of late and his bit about how artists who advertise are no longer artists (I'll deconstruct that bovine detritus another day) but he famously talks about how artists who promote brands are basically, and there's no nice way of putting this, sucking Satan's glans. You may have seen it, he re-enacted it quite graphically and powerfully.
It's an extreme emotional response, I think we can all agree. However, there's an ongoing trend that I think is starting to stir the same level of emotional response in me so my opening blog for Huffington Post is going to be a full pelt moan about this continuing trend for lifeless, soulless, bland and non-differentiating folk covers sound-tracking nearly every advertisement on television.
It seems that whether one is advertising mouth wash, nappies, cars, pretty much everything, the soundbed will be a folkey or acoustic cover of some hit we all know and love, and it's not just a current trend, it's been going on for going on for several years.
Having worked as a music consultant for brands, agencies and even your commonal garden international sports events as well as managed and A&Red artists for much longer than I care to admit, I know how important a role recognition can play in aiding a piece of music, and the clip its associated with into the punter's brain . In simple terms, a tune that is already known can cut its way past several cognitive defences much quicker than something unknown, than something new. That's why so many artists release covers as singles, people like what they already know (and as a result covers tend to research well for radio stations who then are more likely to playlist a track and so on and so forth). In this game where we're all trying to grab attention quickly, trying to make sure our message needs to be seen and heard by the consumer the least number of times possible before it breaks into their conscious mind is the key. So surely something that's nice and warm and fuzzy and cuddly and unthreatening as well as being recognisable is going to work its way in even quicker right?
These are the key criteria of folkey-kokey ad music:
If the music you're looking to use in your commercial is ticking all of the boxes above guess what, so is everyone else's. Now call me old fashioned but I like music that grabs attention. This doesn't have to mean that the music must steal the show in every commercial, but even when it's meant to be lower down the attention hierarchy, if it's carefully chosen it can do a hell of a lot in helping ease the advert into consumer's attention.
There's nothing better than getting the right piece of music to the right piece of film. It's an incredible buzz for me and to be honest, great advertising gives me a buzz anyway. One of the reasons I got into music was because I could (and still can) hum pretty much every piece of advert music from about 1979-1989 (playing drums and girls started taking all my attention from that point onwards in case you're wondering why the 1989 cut off).
On top of that there's no reason we can't utilise the recognisability of tracks we all know and love whilst not tearing out their soul with cutesy, slightly off key fiddle playing the melody, Kronenbourg managed it brilliant and they didn't even need a new singer when Lemmy covered his own Ace of Spades in a way that made us pay attention. Admittedly, the music was the basis of the advert, as it was back when I worked the Coca-Cola I Wish Campaign with Mother. However, the Skoda Fabia RS ad manages to parody a song used in their own advertising to communicate the difference between the Fabia and the Fabia RS really effectively.
If you're using a jingle-jangle cover version of an old track you're not going to stand out. It's not quite as bad as using a soundalike, but commercials are an audio visual medium and you're painting an audio backdrop of magnolia.
Personally I don't participate in folkey-kokey covers of tracks for my clients as I strongly believe that it is not an effective use of music for them and on a personal level it's completely unsatisfying for me. However, even so it's impossible to escape them so please, agencies and clients this is an intervention - please, for the love of all that is holy, I beg you, stop with the folkey-dokey covers in adverts or else the Ukulele gets it.
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