Music in Advertising: Obscure Find

January 24, 2012

One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to discover new things. Thanks to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Digg, etc., we can find new and obscure things that we never would have otherwise learned. Oh the afternoons lost in a "link spiral" on Wikipedia. In the same way, good ads can help us discover unknown talent.

I mentioned this with the rediscovery of songs by bands like The Kinks and Nick Drake. But, this phenomenon can also help contemporary acts too. I recently had this "a-ha" moment with Orba Squara's "Perfect Timing (This Morning)" and, of course, Apple.

For those who don't know, Orba Squara, aka Mitch Davis, is the guy responsible for the xylophoney song in the original iPhone commercials. It is actually one of those songs that sounds like it was written for commercials. I never actually gave it a second thought until it popped up on a Pandora station the other day. In fact, I had completely forgotten about the song until it came on and thought, "Oh, hey, happy Apple song."

But, isn't that what a good ad does? Even after five years, you hear the song, and it brings back visuals of the commercial. Of course, it helps that Apple has such distinct visuals for its commercials. The song is too perfect for the happy, simplicity of the iPhone. In fact, it is so perfect it seems as though it was specifically made for the commercial; probably, to Davis' detriment.

It got me thinking of two other songs that I mostly discovered thanks to TV commercials. One is Citzen Cope's "Let the Drummer Kick" and the other is Phoenix's "1901." It is fair to say that without Acura, I never would have appreciated Citizen Cope, aka Clarence Greenwood, when I heard his song on a friend's playlist. Because I had a point of reference for the song in another context, it stood out and became relevant--that magic advertising moment. Likewise, Cadillac made me curious about the Phoenix.

This is all a reminder of a few fundamental truths. One, music can evoke memory and emotion better than most any slogan. Two, advertising is as much an art form as painting or composing music. It is admittedly more of a postmodern form, a pastiche of popular elements, but it still influences our culture--even if we won't admit it.

The thing is, anyone can appreciate advertising done well. Even the most ardent complainer of the obtrusiveness of advertising has an ad or two that resonates somewhere inside. This is the standard advertising should be trying to achieve. Most advertising is about staying power. And truth be told, things that annoy us can stick with us just as long as things we like. The other truth is it is easier to annoy people than be effectively clever. Still, it should be our goal, to paraphrase President Kennedy, "not because [it] is easy, but because [it] is hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

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Jeff Francis is a marketing geek who would never refer to himself as a guru. He is that weird sort who enjoys watching commercials and analyzing communication strategies. He is also available for hire and would love to hear from you. So, head on over to the contact page and get in touch.

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