Media Headliner: A world away from men at pianos writing jingles

Adland's relationship with music has come a long way. Here, Alasdair Reid visits brandamp, which unites brands and bands.

In the past few years, contemporary music has become a potent ingredient in the advertising mix - thanks largely, you have to suspect, to increasing feelings of desperation within a beleaguered recording industry. Not so very long ago, even a third-rate purveyor of pop pap would have sneered at an approach from a mere advertiser.

That all changed, clearly, when music business incomes began to dwindle thanks to our growing expectation that we should be able to download most of our music for free. The talent was suddenly open to offers.

All of which has led, in turn, to the creation of specialist agency units charged with the task of marrying the right brands to the right acts or tracks. Specialists such as brandamp, which launched in April last year as a joint venture between Universal Music Group and WPP's Group M - though WPP arguably has the better half of the partnership. While brandamp works exclusively with WPP agencies and their clients, it isn't tied just to Universal acts - it can seek out the music it wants from other labels or decide to commission material from scratch.

But, of course, the focus clearly is expected to be on Universal properties - and this, after all, is the biggest of the big four recording groups, with arguably the broadest spectrum of acts, from heritage performers such as Elton John, through a whole range of guitar bands, from Oasis to Def Leppard, to a veritable stable of pop princesses, from Janet Jackson to Gwen Stefani.

Headed up by its chief executive, Giulio Brunini, brandamp currently serves all of WPP's agencies across all European territories out of a single London office - but a modest level of expansion is on the cards. Individual agencies will be encouraged to take on brandamp-trained personnel (a bit like the "Inside" structure pioneered by the communications planning agency Naked); and the venture is also likely to be rolled out across other global regions. An announcement is expected in the next few weeks.

Arguably, brandamp's most successful project to date saw Take That front a Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R campaign for Marks & Spencer in September 2007. The band became "the face" of the department store's new Autograph menswear range; and, in turn, M&S sponsored Take That's Beautiful World tour. In interviews, band members were often found talking about how impressed they had been with the strides M&S had made towards greener retailing.

Not all the deals brandamp does are as complex and multilayered as this, clearly. "We'll look at any aspect that can include music in the marketing mix," Brunini explains. "That might involve matching music with images; for instance, finding the right song for a commercial - and it can be an existing song or involve a bespoke approach. The ad agency sends a script and the agency looks into selecting the right track for that project and then negotiates the rights for that track."

Its partner when it goes down the bespoke route tends to be Delicious Digital, a production house that employs some of the best in the business when it comes to writing music for moving pictures.

Another important deal brokered by brandamp was on behalf of Wunderman and its Procter & Gamble client. P&G wanted to incorporate a library of contemporary music (accessible on a streamed basis) from its site. Then there's the area of merchandising and sales promotion. In the digital era, it's now easy to make music a redeemable item in a competition or a promotion.

Last, but by no means least, there's instore music. Music has always played a big role in the retail experience, particularly in the more youth- and fashion-oriented sectors - now the whole business has become more structured and sophisticated. Agencies such as brandamp can ensure that the right tracks go into the right environments at the right time.

The bottom line, Brunini says, is that the relationship between music and advertising has evolved way beyond men sitting at pianos writing jingles. He adds: "There's a realisation about how powerful music can be for the brand. It can give the brand a dimension beyond the visual. And, of course, for the artist, it is a fantastic platform, too. It's a matter of knowing who to talk to, the right buttons to push and whether the negotiation is the right one for the right artist. You must ensure that they are totally involved in the whole dialogue."

And, of course, Brunini acknowledges that this is all being driven by the new structural imperatives of the digital economy. And that's something he knows more than a little about. He began his career with Saatchi & Saatchi in Italy, before joining Yahoo! Italy as its marketing director. He then moved to London to co-ordinate Yahoo!'s trade marketing across the whole of Europe - and, during this period, he was also heavily involved in the launch of Yahoo! Music.

He has, he reckons, arrived at the right place at the right time. He's certainly not missing Italy. And the fact that he's a big jazz enthusiast might have something to do with that. He concludes: "Italy has much to offer, obviously, but I have to say I like London. The big measure of quality of life in a city is whether people tend to stay there over the weekend. In London, there are so many things to do, you can't get bored. And there's no better place if you're a jazz fan."

Age: 40
Lives: Chelsea
Family: Wife, Yonca, and two daughters, Yesim (two) and Asya (five
Most treasured possession: My saxophone
Favourite album: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Favourite ad: Stephen Hawking BT ad, "BT helps the world talking"
(Hawking's "voice" was also used by Pink Floyd for the track Keep
Last book you read: Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
Motto: "Don't forget to smile." It was said to me by my horse-riding
instructor when I jumped my first hurdle.