Music Essays: Come together

The collaboration between ad agency and record label has produced industry-defining campaigns - but is there still room for improvement?

Working together, the recording and advertising industries have created some of the most memorable moments in television and pop culture history - from Levi's "launderette" to Cadbury's "gorilla". When done right, music and advertising can combine to amazingly powerful effect.

And yet, here we are, almost 25 years on from when Nick Kamen dropped his jeans to I Heard It Through The Grapevine, still musing over how we should be working together better - strange for two industries with so much in common and no conflicting business interests.

We recognise that the music industry hasn't always been the easiest of partners for agencies to work with. For our part, we have, at times, become caught up in the complexity of the advertising world, navigating through the web of creatives, planners, producers, directors, account directors, production companies, clients and others, all with different priorities and perfectly legitimate opinions in the music selection process.

Our goal is to make music available in the right way, to the right people and at the right time during the production of an ad and, where it is appropriate, throughout a campaign's life. What it comes down to is improving the lines of communication between the music and the advertising industries and being more transparent. So, in this spirit, we asked a number of our colleagues and partners to explain their thoughts on music in advertising.

- Robert Linney, MBL Management (The Chemical Brothers, Hot Chip)

"It's now accepted that labels build securing a sync into their marketing plans for most artists, and although there can be some promotional benefit, the commercial side needs to be considered too. The artists I represent look at syncs on a case-by-case basis and I don't think syncing music to an ad is viewed as selling out. In fact, artists can be keen to work with agencies on the creation of bespoke music; that has been a smooth and enjoyable process for the projects The Chemical Brothers have been involved with, such as the Ford S-Max ad."

- Matthew Rumbold, A&R manager, Virgin Records UK

"Different artists have different views about brands and advertising, but I think a lot of agencies would be surprised by the extent to which both new and established artists can be interested in the idea and possibilities of sync these days. Many of our artists have demoed over versions of classic songs or even written new songs in response to a brief, and it's a process that many find very rewarding. We always have artists either writing or in the studio and this is a great time to talk to them about a creative proposal, particularly if it's from a brand they use or feel some affinity towards."

- Mark Terry, senior vice-president marketing, UK & Ireland, EMI Music

"There's often an assumption from outside the music industry that the use of music in TV spots means automatic promotion for an artist. That, in turn, sells records and it's as simple as that. Of course, there's a handful of examples where that has happened, but, in reality, the proportion that have any sort of impact on sales is actually minuscule. Sometimes it's just about providing a good sound bed that works for the ad only. Another key issue for us, in terms of maximising the benefits of having music in ads, boils down to the issue of timescales. Our marketing plans are constructed a significant period in advance, yet often we're signing off syncs days before airing and so we're not able to incorporate it properly into our plans. If we work early on a more integrated campaign, we can amplify the song's impact and the brand message."

- Peter Duckworth, co-managing director, EMI Music Marketing UK

"Music is very powerful when allowed to breathe in an ad - for example, Phil Collins in Cadbury's Dairy Milk or the track by Les Rythmes Digitales in the Citroen ad. Music's emotion needs to come through and this happens best when an ad is designed around a piece of music. Where music is an add-on at the end of the creative process, it rarely works nearly as well, unless by coincidence. And using soundalikes is a bad idea - consumers see through it and I'm sure this must reflect negatively on the brand."

- Raf McDonnell, vice-president brand partnerships, licensing and synchronisation - Europe, EMI Music

"The great thing about music is its universal appeal to all consumers from all demographics and ages. This makes it an ideal way for brands to connect with their consumers, be it through particular artists or through genres ranging from pop to classical. There is always a way that we can use music to connect with a particular audience - and a 'good fit' between brand and music is crucial. We just need to understand the challenge that the brand is trying to address so we can find an appropriate solution. We need to find ways to offer a complete range of musical assets that help the brand connect to its consumers through meaningful partnerships with our artists."

These opinions are, of course, just a snapshot of viewpoints from a small sample of our colleagues and partners, but we hope they give an insight into our world.

If there's a common theme, it's a will to be more transparent and to work more co-operatively with consumers in the broadest sense, a will we share at EMI Sync.

We know that music plays different roles in different campaigns. It's our job to be a gateway into the world of artists, A&R, marketing and so on, so that music does what agencies and clients need it to do on each and every specific job, no matter how big or small the campaign.

- Rich Robinson and Hywel Evans are co-directors of synchronisation at EMI Music.