Popular Music In Audio Visual Advertising

The use of music in advertising has a long history, and it is viewed as a strong platform for creating moods in advertising, to tap in on specific subcultures and target groups, and to get consumer attention. Considering the importance of music in many forms of advertising, and particularly in TV commercials, it is somewhat surprising that the scholarly interest in music and advertising did not gain momentum until the late 1980s. The predominant research stream has focused on consumer-oriented studies of the affective and behavioral effects of music in advertising.

Within this stream the effects of different structural elements of music (e.g. mode, tempo, pitch, rhythm and harmony) on dependent variables such as attitudes, purchase intentions, brand recognition and brand recall have been studied. The concepts of congruency and fit have attracted a lot of attention, studying fit between ad content and the audio-visual elements and how it is forming consumer perceptions of the commercial and their behavior. The marketing literature implies that congruency helps in building a better brand communication with consumers.

Brand communications is viewed as a critical integrative element in managing brand relationships with consumers. Brand communication was found to play an important role in creating favorable brand attitudes and is a key to ‘tangibalize’ product and brand perceptions. Deciding on effective brand communications represents a major challenge for the marketers, as these are central to building consumer perception and consumer choices. As consumers continue to bridge and co-develop brands with or without support of firms, their interaction, including their own communication, is becoming crucial to understanding brand communication practices.

What’s needed is a way to interject the consumer into the brand — to make the consumers feel as if they are a part of the company. This should be evident from the rise of social media and the increased popularity of selfies — people are constantly including themselves in pictures of everything. Note the popularity of the selfie stick. The selfie stick, or pole, allows people to include themselves in pictures of the scenery they are photographing. People no longer are content to be outsiders, spending money to get a product. They want to be a part of the product itself.

Audio Visual Ads
Audio Visual Ads

The current study is motivated by the following observations. Firstly, despite the evidence of the important role music plays in commercials, little is known about what strategies are used to integrate music in commercials. Secondly, little attention has been devoted to how the elements of music, including lyrics, story line, voice-overs, and text elements are all functioning as a totality in various purchasing and pre-purchasing settings. Thirdly, the previous literature appears to be preoccupied with the importance on building more explicit congruency between the brand or a product and structural elements of music (e.g. mode, tempo, pitch, rhythm and harmony) as a prerequisite of a positive impact on consumers’ responses and behavior.

Drawing on research from film studies it is argued here that music needs to be viewed as an integrated part of a whole, and that each component is understood as a part of this whole. The different elements of the commercial (brand/product, audio (music, dialog, voice-over, and sound effects, text and other visual elements) need to be connected and understood as an interacting whole.

Audio Visual Center
Audio Visual Center

Based on the analysis of 96 Levi’s Jeans TV commercials, this article analyzes how the lyrics in popular songs are integrated in commercials, and how they interact with other elements in the commercial, such as the storyline, main characters, brand associations and overall brand communications. Levi’s Jeans has a history of using popular songs in their commercials. As argued by Moshini the lyrics of a song plays a dramaturgical role in filmic texts, and TV commercials are just a special case of this. Although filmmakers traditionally have placed music in the background, the “MTV-inspired” makers of TV-series, movies and TV commercials tend to place the music more in the foreground, and this makes lyrics equally important as other elements such as screen dialogs. This observation opens up for interesting questions on how the lyrics are incorporated in a TV commercial, to fit with other elements of it.

Our analysis has several implications. From the analysis, it can be inferred that fit/congruency stretches beyond an explicit link between music and product/brand as the fit in music literature claims. We accept that congruency or match between songs and the product sold in the commercial plays an important role in effectiveness of advertising. Music congruency was found to enhance affective responses to advertisements. Music consistency across all touch points has also been considered of the keys to building trust and loyalty. However, we argue that music and lyrics in the commercial should go beyond merely informing consumers about products but also communicate clear advantages that help to differentiate the brand from the competition and enhance brand equity. Take a look at this article which offers more on this subject.

As with the development of the cinema, music sounds can offer the next level of communications for a brand. Brand communication was previously found to have favorable effects on the development of a trust-based platform between consumers and brands. For example, findings from the Grace and O’Cass and Vazifehdust & Norouzi, studies suggest that brand communications play a pivotal role in establishing consumer expectations, thus influencing satisfaction and brand attitudes. One of the key aims of “audio branding” therefore should be to “plant” a set of brand triggers in consumer minds in the form of music.

2 thoughts on “Popular Music In Audio Visual Advertising

  1. I’ve worked in the industry, and this article is spot on with the observations of how popular music is used in audio-visual work.

  2. This is the money quote, so to speak: “it is argued here that music needs to be viewed as an integrated part of a whole.” This is why music works so well in advertising – it is integrated tightly.

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