Music Essays: Time for desire to rule the day

Can music providers and agencies find the passion and will to improve relations and guarantee a harmonious future?

As a journalist, I know how it feels to be disliked. Bracketed with the lowlife that peck at the entrails of others.

But hey, I can cheer myself up with the thought that I am not an advertiser, annoying the very people that I want to desire me and my products. Or, even worse, I could work for an ad agency; I could actually be responsible for creating those irksome ads.

Being irritating is not, in itself, such a bad thing. Some people make a whole career out of it. Janette Tough, aka Wee Jimmy Krankie, is one who springs to mind, though I wish she wouldn't. And some seriously annoying ads have proved incredibly durable. Think Michael Winner touting esure. In truth, Winner probably merits a mention in both categories.

But when it's your job to win hearts and minds with the ads you create, it's hardly gratifying to hear that your work is irritating people.

Yet that's exactly what new findings from HPI Research reveal. A staggering 33 per cent of people surveyed agreed, and 14 per cent strongly, that "advertising in general annoys me more nowadays". Only 13 per cent disagreed (3 per cent strongly).

The idea that people dislike ads is not new. But the sobering element in those HPI statistics lies in the words "more nowadays". It is getting worse, not better. That has to be taken seriously.

It's in this context that advertisers and agencies are working with music providers to charm such ad-weary consumers in more innovative ways. That means inspired sync deals, plus collaborative efforts to bring about those occasional goose pimple-inducing moments, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head refrains and stonking tunes that fit an advertising message exactly.

Some are already pushing the boundaries further. Last year, the global drinks company Bacardi-Martini and the British dance music duo Groove Armada signed a recording contract to release music under the Bacardi brand and have the group play live at Bacardi-branded events across five continents.

Then, in a further groundbreaking move this January, the two were partnered in an online mechanism that harnessed the power of social networks to distribute the group's new EP.

As well as being available on traditional download stores from March, the EP was launched two months earlier via an online sharing service, www.bliveshare.com. Users over the legal drinking age could sign up and download the first track in MP3 format for free. To access track two, they had to share track one with 20 people, either by e-mailing or using a social network widget.

As they shared with more friends, so more tracks were unlocked to them until the day before the commercial release.

Here was something that tapped into both the natural instinct among music lovers to share and the rise of social networks - and justifiably generated much more positive feedback than that earlier worrying stat from HPI Research.

In fact, a Harris Interactive survey for Campaign found that 21 per cent of the population said they were aware of the Bacardi/Groove Armada partnership, rising to 31 per cent among 18- to 24-year-olds. That's impressive, given the grass-roots nature of the distribution, as the Harris research director, Steve Evans, points out. More than that, 62 per cent felt positive about it. And, among the core audiences of 18- to 24- and 25- to 34-year-olds, 77 per cent and 79 per cent respectively felt positive about the tie-up.

The message from the Harris Interactive survey is clear: nearly three in four people said: "Brands need to do more than sponsor to create genuine music partnerships."

We kick off this supplement with a write-up of a lunch to which we invited producers, creative directors and a head of TV to debate with our music industry essayists around the table.

The desire to do more, and do it better, was evident from both sides of the business. But so too was a sense of frustration that it was often so hard to achieve. How incredibly irritating.

Here at Campaign, we are keen to promote collaboration and tap into the passion that creates ads consumers clamour to watch. If you want to be part of it, let us know.

- Suzanne Bidlake, associate editor (reports), Campaign.