great minds on music : an interview with tham khai meng

In this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series, Uli Reese, President of iV2, catches up with Tham Khai Meng, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer & Chairman, WW Creative Council Ogilvy & Mather. “Great Minds on Music” is a collection of interviews with some of the top names in the advertising industry, engaging them in conversations about music, audio and advertising.  If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing. 

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH THAM KHAI MENG

Reese: You were talking about the “messy process” of creativity. Let’s talk about how music fits into that. How do you use music in brand communication? How important is it in your work?

“…music is as much as 60 or 70 percent of a film. It’s visceral, it’s emotional, it communicates to us. It cuts across generations, across diversity. It connects.” – Tham Khai Meng

Khai: Boy…you know, if I could put a percentage to it, I might say music is as much as 60 or 70 percent of a film. It’s visceral, it’s emotional, it communicates to us. It cuts across generations, across diversity. It connects. So music is an enormous part of what we do – which is connection.

Reese: Talk to us about your process. How do you approach the subject when you’re going into a campaign? What’s your secret?

Khai: Well, there’s no secret – it’s just hard work, really. First and foremost, you have to get to the idea. It’s a long process: messy, chaotic, lots of white paper, lots of fear. There’s always that pressure in the back of your mind: you want to do something great, every time. Every brief is an opportunity. What I like to do is draw boxes and put ideas in them – it could be words, or visual ideas. Because, you know, we have a lot of clutter in our head. We need to empty it sometimes.

Reese: What inspires you in terms of music? Do you have an iTunes library that you listen to when you work?

Khai: Yeah, sometimes. I’m always listening to music at home. Or you might have heard something in the car that morning, and you can’t get it out of your head. So you think about that genre and how it might work. You ask other people for their opinion, of course. They may be right, they may be wrong – it doesn’t matter. You need new thinking.

Reese: You’re like a sponge…

Khai: All the time. Or more like a vulture. Continue reading

great minds on music: an interview with james hilton

James Hilton AKQA Co-founder,  shares his insights in this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series. “Great Minds on Music” is a series of conversations with some of the top names in the business of advertising and Uli Reese, President of iV2. If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing.

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES HILTON

Reese: So let’s dive in: how important is music in your work?

Hilton: Massively. Music, like smell, evokes more emotions than vision. If you’re played a piece of music from your youth, that will evoke far more emotion than a photograph will. It’s almost instant recall. And those things are incredibly powerful when you’re creating a brand or working with brands. One recent piece of work I wish we’d done is an iPhone game called the Nightjar, for Wrigley’s Five Gum. You have to use your headphones – and it’s done using binaural sound recording: 3D sound. The premise is that you’re walking through a spaceship that’s being attacked by aliens. But all you have on your screen is a left arrow, a right arrow, and two pads for walking. The game is created entirely through sound – your hearing triggers your imagination, which is far scarier than any special effect. But to answer your question: sound is everything.

“I don’t speak in musical terms, I don’t know the difference between a quaver or a semi-quaver, but I understand emotion…” – James Hilton

Reese: Do you think music can change behavior?

Hilton: I think it can make you more susceptible to certain suggestions. When you go to a punk concert, you feel a bit violent – but it’s a good violence, a cathartic violence. But when you listen to classical music, you feel smarter, more intellectual, because the music carries a cultural significance. If you meet me at a punk concert you’re going to find a slightly different person to the one at the classical concert. We all know that music influences mood. For instance, there must be all sorts of scientific data about music that makes you want to linger in a store. It has a similar effect to classical music: “You’re an enlightened consumer – so this is where you want to be.”

Reese:  So you believe it’s possible to modify the behavior of consumers?

Hilton: You’re not creating new behaviors, you’re tapping into existing behaviors and amplifying them by using different musical genres. Continue reading

great minds on music : an interview with sir john hegarty

In this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series, we sit down in London with Sir John Hegarty, Chairman & Worldwide Creative Director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH). “Great Minds on Music” is a series of conversations with some of the top names in the business of advertising and Uli Reese, President of iV2. If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing.

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH SIR JOHN HEGARTY

Reese: How important is music in building a brand?

Hegarty: I would answer that in a slightly different way. Music is incredibly powerful when it’s part of a message which in turn is helping to build a brand. Brands are built out of stories. Of course they begin with the product – but the brand, what it means to people, how they respond to it, is built out of stories about that brand: where it comes from, who founded it, its vision…and you can communicate those things in a number of different ways. Film is one of them – and in that context music is fundamentally important.

Reese: Agreed.

“…truth is one of the most powerful forces in communication. Great musicians find a truth, they tap into a feeling that resonates, that you believe in.” – Sir John Hegarty

Hegarty: It’s hard to overestimate how important it is. Music can transform a message. It doesn’t transform the narrative structure – but it can change the meaning of that structure. So why is that? The thing about music is that it’s an almost purely emotional medium. A tune can have absolutely no meaning apart from the emotional response to it. A story has to have a meaning, a structure. In music the meaning is absolutely connected to your soul and your heart – it’s just something you feel.

Reese: It’s true that songs don’t need a narrative.

Hegarty: As James Stephens says in his wonderful book The Crock of Gold, “what the heart feels today the head will know tomorrow”. In other words, we’re emotional creatures. We take in information through the heart – and that’s where music goes in. That’s what makes it so powerful. Continue reading

the power of sound: audio drives award winning work at the 2013 cannes lions

IMG_2832When it comes to advertising awards, nothing matches the prestige (or the intensity) of  the Cannes Lions.

This year a record 35,765 entries from 92 countries were submitted to the Cannes Lions 60th International Festival of Creativity, making it the largest and most prestigious global awards event for creative advertising and communications.

You can certainly debate the relevance of award shows, but researchers Les Binet and Peter Field found that creatively-awarded campaigns are, on average, ten times more effective.

Knowing the power of sound to shape brand identity, enhance consumer engagement and increase brand awareness, it comes as no surprise that audio driven work (both strategically and creatively) takes home its share of “Lions.”  As technology continues to create new ways of closing the sonic gap between brands and their audience, we’re convinced that the strategic use of sound will play an increasingly important role in brand marketing.

We’re writing this post from Cannes, where we’re only a few days into the Festival. Already, we’re seeing the importance of sound as a key component of effective advertising. Here’s a sampling of five winners that we think stood out from the crowd:

Continue reading

great minds on music : an interview with josh rabinowitz

In this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series, we’re picking the brain of Josh Rabinowitz, Senior Vice President/Director of Music for the Grey Group. “Great Minds on Music” is a series of conversations with some of the top names in the business of advertising and Uli Reese, President of iV2. If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing.

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSH RABINOWITZ

Reese: I like to use these interviews to address a question that I think many brands and agencies ask, though the answer seems elusive. It’s this: can the right choice of music by a brand change consumer behavior?

Rabinowitz: I think it can. Science proves that sound, and particularly music, stays with us longer than anything else. If you think about jingles, they plant seeds in your brain that are difficult to remove – they lock themselves in there. Whereas with images and concepts, it’s more fleeting. They can have an effect, but it’s shorter term.

“…the problem is that music isn’t often done right when it comes to branding. There have been very few effective executions over the years…Unfortunately, what happens is that somebody finds a piece of music they think is cool, they put it on [the spot], and often it overshadows the concept.” – Josh Rabinowitz

Reese: I always say we’re in the “remembering business.” But do you think a music can help us love a brand more? It seems we don’t buy brands because they’re better or cheaper, we buy them because we fall in love with them. Can we accomplish that with music?

Rabinowitz: If it’s done right…the problem is that music isn’t often done right when it comes to branding. There have been very few effective executions over the years. But memory is an important part of our behavior, so you can definitely use it to plant ideas inside people. It reminds me of the movie Inception, which is about planting ideas in peoples’ minds. I think music is able to do that. And if it’s done right, there can be a lot of love. Unfortunately, what happens is that somebody finds a piece of music they think is cool, they put it on [the spot], and often it overshadows the concept.

Reese: But when is it done right? Continue reading

great minds on music : an interview with sudeep gohil

“Great Minds on Music” is a series of conversations between some of the top names in the business of advertising and Uli Reese, President of iV2. We’ve edited and compiled these interviews into a series we’ve dubbed “Great Minds on Music.” If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing.

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH SUDEEP GOHIL

Reese: Let’s start by considering how important music is to your work. I know you have a strong musical background: you DJ and you have a SoundCloud channel called, “Deep Mix”. You also have a strategic planning history. How does all that work together?

“We’re getting to the point [in advertising] where there is so much clutter that a sting becomes even more important. People are beginning to think, ‘Actually…I could do something more interesting with the one and a half seconds at the end of every commercial…’” – Sudeep Gohil

Gohil: I’ve always been really interested in music. When I was a kid I used to play in bands. I learned to play bass guitar. I was in a band when I was in Australia, but because I was the bass player I was always at the back. We were playing Hendrix and Led Zeppelin… but I wanted to do something more complicated, like Living Colour….I thought Vernon Reid was the most awesome bass player I’d ever heard. But the band didn’t want to do that kind of stuff. And then I went back to London to visit my cousins, and they gave me  — a tape, I suppose — of Technotronic.

Reese: Technotronic?

Gohil:  You know: “Pump Up the Jam”? And I realized that while electronic music was a kind of niche in Australia, it was massive in the UK. So suddenly I wanted to DJ too. For my 14th or 15th birthday, my parents flew over a set of turntables and a mixer from London as a gift.  Everything changed, because I was in control. I was at the front instead of the back! We’d put on a party in a social club or a town hall and it was just insane: hundreds and hundreds of people. When I finished high school, I realized I could do the same thing on an even bigger scale. We started doing warehouse parties and so on. We were making more money than we knew what to do with! Continue reading

sound knowledge: an audio branding reading list

When it comes to harnessing the power of sound, a working knowledge of the fundamentals of audio science and design is vital. An aptitude for composition/production certainly yields creative results, but it’s only one part of the audio branding equation. Research is necessary to balance out our instincts with demonstrable facts, helping us shape the creation of audio assets and manage their implementation as well.

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information available. New studies are continually being published in academic journals and agency/brand white papers. Emerging technologies offer new audio touch points for brands to explore. Keeping up on the latest trends and best practices in our discipline is a full time job!

If you’re interested in the latest news, you might want to follow our iV audio branding daily and our audio branding scoop.it page where we’re constantly curating new content relevant to the industry.

Additionally, we thought it might be helpful to supply you with a “must read” list – a bibliography for the serious audio branding enthusiast. So we went to our book shelves and pulled what we thought were a few of the essential titles of the moment. We’ve listed them for you here, with easy amazon links (just select the title) and a short description. There’s a wide variety of thought represented here – everything from branding to neuromarketing to the role of silence in a noisy world.

We offer these with hopes that they’ll expand your knowledge – and with it allow for more informed discussions. If there’s a work that’s been influential in your approach to audio branding that we’ve not included in our list, feel free to leave a comment and let us know. We always enjoy adding to our library.

Happy reading!

Continue reading

great minds on music : an interview with tom o’keefe

In this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series, Uli Reese, President of iV2, catches up with Tom O’Keefe, Draftfcb Executive Creative Director, North America, at his office in Chicago. “Great Minds on Music” is a collection of interviews with some of the top names in the advertising industry, engaging them in conversations about music, audio and advertising.  If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing. 

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH TOM O’KEEFE

Reese: What role does music play in your work as an advertising agency?  How important is it?

“…no matter how well you write a piece of dialog, or how well the visual elements come together, I think music is the thing that moves you the most” – Tom O’Keefe

O’Keefe: I think you can’t separate music from what we do as advertisers or as an agency. It’s always been part of the emotional context of a brand. It’s there to tap into your feelings – and hopefully get you to like a brand more because you’re affected by the music, whether you’re aware of that or not. There are times when you hear something and you’re like, “I love that music!” And other times where you’re not consciously aware of it, but it still moves you in a certain way. There was a classic era of jingles that stuck in your head, then we moved to an era where music is now probably more original, or at least about associating known songs, with brands. Now I’m hearing a lot about audio mnemonics and audio signatures and discussion about what brands sound like. Maybe that’s because the ubiquity of communication means you’ve got to be that much clearer about what your sound is.

Reese:  Can you talk a little bit about your process? When you’re creating a campaign, when and how does the music fit into the process?

O’Keefe: I think it should be from the start.  And unfortunately too often it’s looked at as an afterthought. You’ve gone through the idea, you’ve gone through some of the production process and then it’s suddenly: “Well, what’s the music going to be?” When really, music should be there from the beginning, because it helps you clarify the brand’s voice. I’ve done campaigns where music has been the driver from the beginning.  In fact, I’ve done the classic “when you don’t know what to say, sing it.” But even then we had to find the right vibe for the brand. I’m thinking of one in particular for amazon.com, about ten years ago, called “The Sweater Men.” And they were singing the strategy, OK?  They were singing prices and sales and deliveries and toys and inventory. It was self-effacing, it had a sense of humor, it had this kind of quirky retro kind of a vibe and this was all a reflection of Amazon’s brand at the time.

Continue reading

great minds on music : an interview with james hilton

“Great Minds on Music” is a series of conversations between some of the top names in the business of advertising and Uli Reese, President of iV2. We’ve edited and compiled these interviews into a series we’ve dubbed “Great Minds on Music.” If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing. 

“Music, like smell, evokes more emotions than vision. Sound is Everything” – James Hilton

GREAT MINDS ON MUSIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES HILTON

Reese: So let’s dive right in: how important is music in your work?

Hilton: Massively. Music, like smell, evokes more emotions than vision. If you’re played a piece of music from your youth, that will evoke far more emotion than a photograph will. It’s almost instant recall. And those things are incredibly powerful when you’re creating a brand or working with brands…One recent piece of work I wish we’d done is an iPhone game called the Nightjar, for Wrigley’s Five Gum. You have to use your headphones – and it’s done using binaural sound recording: 3D sound. The premise is that you’re walking through a spaceship that’s being attacked by aliens. But all you have on your screen is a left arrow, a right arrow and two pads for walking. The game is created entirely through sound – your hearing triggers your imagination, which is far scarier than any special effect. But to answer your question: sound is everything.

Reese: Do you think music can change behavior?

Hilton: I think it can make you more susceptible to certain suggestions. When you go to a punk concert, you feel a bit violent – but it’s a good violence, a cathartic violence. But when you listen to classical music, you feel smarter, more intellectual, because the music carries a cultural significance. If you meet me at a punk concert you’re going to find a slightly different person to the one at the classical concert. We all know that music influences mood. For instance, there must be all sorts of scientific data about music that makes you want to linger in a store. It has a similar effect to classical music: “You’re an enlightened consumer – so this is where you want to be.”

Continue reading

teaching an old dog new tricks : radio as an audio branding touch point


An audio brand is only as good as its implementation. For all the hours devoted to the strategy, research and testing that contribute to creating audio assets for a brand, it’s meaningless without a strategy focused on implementing the audio brand as consistently as possible, as often as possible and in as many contexts as possible.

The “contexts” part of that equation refers to what we call “touch points”: the medium or point of contact through which the audio brand is delivered. In the past, these touch points were usually limited to more traditional broadcast mediums, like television and radio. Today, technology is rapidly opening up new possibilities for the use of audio at point of sale, in sonically isolated environments, via mobile applications and immersive 3D soundscapes – just to name a few.

With the excitement that comes from seeing all these new audio touch points, it’s easy to dismiss the power that still remains in more traditional mediums. The fact is, technological advancements offer us an opportunity to explore new ways to engage consumers through classic touch points.

Continue reading

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