Once upon a time, a big music advertising sensation occurred when Levi's picked a tune for one of its ads and it became a hit. Today, it would be a ringtone, a video-clip, streamed from the Levi's website, piped through the corporate "on-hold" system, used in a podcast and sent as a viral message.
The digital revolution means advertisers can make music from their commercials work harder than ever for their brands. If a piece of music is good enough, it can reach millions of people as a ringtone, a real-tone or a chart hit - all the while spreading good feelings about the brand that used the song in the first place.
Marketing agencies, music publishers and record companies are increasingly alert to the opportunities. As are the mobile phone companies, which are on the hunt for content as well as associations with bands and artists. Brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, Colman's, Comfort Creme and Pepsi are also getting in on the digital music act. Some of the best examples of the brand-band connection are big-name signings such as Robbie Williams to T-Mobile and Christina Aguilera to Sony Ericsson and Orange.
It sounds like a genuine bandwagon, but you have to look before you leap aboard. The chief proviso for any brand wishing to capitalise on music is that the sounds have to be good. Not every track is going to be worth promoting.
"Some brands are a bit naive about what would justify selling ringtones," Melanie Johnson, the promotions manager at EMI Music Publishing, says. "It needs to be a big song and have a connection back to the brand." Jose Gonzalez's beguiling guitar piece Heartbeats, on the Sony Bravia "balls" ad, is irrefutably an example of a great advertising track.
But whether the music will sell widely or not, advertisers must be aware of the importance of securing the correct rights. Richard Kirstein, the managing director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty's music consultancy, Leap Music, says: "What's very confusing for clients, account teams and producers is that the use of music as a ringtone and download invokes a separate right from a basic sync right. It requires rights to be paid for per unit."
Advertisers must also decide whether they are going to charge consumers to download tunes or foot the bill themselves. Sorting out all possible options at the start of a deal is the best way forward; leaving it until later could prove tricky and more costly.
Another important issue is timing. Despite the relative speed of setting up digital services, Fiona McBlane at Huge Music reckons you need a couple of months to set up musical spin-offs.
"Obviously, you need time to organise ringtones and the publicity and marketing around it. Companies can be slow at getting these things off the ground," she warns.
Although there are some big question-marks over rights in some areas, especially the internet, it doesn't stop the rights holders from being very helpful. Publishers see rights issues as a challenge, while working with brands and artists on a creative idea can open doors. At EMI, Johnson says: "More and more, brands and agencies ask us to come in and present an array of options for added value - not just lots of extra technological things. We're trying to be more creative in our licensing. You've got to think on your feet a lot more."
The picture is similar in the US, where Johnson's colleague Hunter Murtaugh, the creative director, strategic music marketing for EMI Music Publishing, says: "Brands and agencies are finally waking up to the fact that because people don't want to be sold to, music is ever more important as a way of communicating to people." He cites a recent ad by Chase Bank in the US, which featured a Five for Fighting track; the music strategy included its use in all of the bank's branches as the corporate "on-hold" music.
Record companies can be less enthusiastic than publishers about all these extensions of use for their music. Often locked into their own release schedules, they have more time constraints than publishers and are also reportedly more wary about the exploitation of rights on the internet.
However, Ulrich Jaerkel, the senior vice-president for strategic marketing and business development at the record company Sony BMG, stresses that "brand partnerships" are an important way forward for the company. "One option," he says, "is to be smart enough and fast enough, and to bring brand partners together with highly emotional brands on our side, which you can call artists."
Everyone seems to agree that it is vital to embrace digital music solutions for advertisers, but it is still an area that is develop-ing, with lots of emotions and variable costs swishing around to complicate matters. However, there are numerous specialists at hand to guide you through the musical minefield, bringing not onlyexperience on the artistic front, but also in advertising. The marketing agency Iris and the Engine Group's Slice PR offer such services, for example.
So should clients use specialists to help out or stick with the old route of ad agency producer and record company/publisher?
Mark Ross, the managing director of the music specialist Tuna Music, says that while major record companies and publishers now have dedicated departments to deal with the needs of brands, there are still plenty of smaller ones that do not. Tuna helps from start to finish.
"We will source a music track, negotiate and clear the rights for the campaign and then work with the agency, brand and rights owners to explore other potential areas of co-promotion," Ross says.
Perhaps more importantly, specialists such as Tuna or Ricall have their ear to the ground. "We are continually working on campaigns and have a good sense of current market values, experience in licensing music across all media and a realistic idea of what is attainable," Ross says.
Rakesh Sanghvi, the managing director of the music publisher Sony/ATV is circumspect about music consultancies, describing some excellent outfits and then a swathe of also-rans. "We find it a lot more productive to be in a direct relationship with the agencies," he says. "It saves the Chinese whispers. And, where we are working closely with someone when their ideas are forming, we can be a part of the creative process." Working with brand partners, Sanghvi is looking at all sorts of opportunities in the digital arena, including embedding music in the car stereos of new models as well as in mobile phone handsets.
But multiplatform music campaigns are certainly not the preserve of cars, phones and fashion. The music publisher Boosey & Hawkes recently worked with Colman's mustard on its "meaty-licious" campaign, featuring a military track spun-off from a major viral e-marketing campaign. And at TBWA's brand entertainment consultancy, Stream, the music director, Dominic Caisley, describes a recent music strategy for the Unilever fabric conditioner brand Comfort Creme, where the ad's music has been used for both trade and consumer marketing purposes.
Caisley, like many, believes opportunities are growing by the month. So what's around the corner? "In the next 12 months, you will click to download and buy the song, even the album, from your red button on the TV."
MUSIC RIGHTS ON THE WEB: A THORNY ISSUE
This summer, Channel 4 pulled all advertising from its new online broadcasting service in response to ad industry fears that actors and musicians could sue agencies for rights infringement.
Advertisers that use a piece of music in their TV ads, for example, do not automatically own the right to use it in other media, such as online. And music providers, especially the record companies, are wary of licensing advertisers to use a song in a medium that has the potential to reach billions of people. How do you calculate a royalty payment based on an open-ended, global audience and over an unspecified time-frame?
But the IPA, which warned Channel 4 of the problem, understands that online services are the future for broadcasters. Its advice is for agencies and advertisers to clear as many rights as possible, taking into account all the potential uses of an ad or its elements. Beyond that, the IPA is helping to further discussions between the various parties to develop a framework.
Specifying exact usage online has to be a crucial part of the way ahead: there are ways of limiting audiences and access to material on the internet.
Channel 4 points out that its service was simulcast with the TV offering, streamed live and that it was not possible to download any material. Furthermore, it says, the broadcast service was only available to registered users.
BRANDS AND BANDS UNITE: FOUR CASE STUDIES
Artist: A-Bomb featuring Rachel Kelly
Strategy: The sanpro brand Libresse worked with Leap Music and rearranged the Negro spiritual Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, rerecording it for Bartle Bogle Hegarty's "march" ad. The recording was controlled by Leap Masters. The track was available for sale as a download at iTunes, Napster and Playlouder, via Leap Masters' digital distributor state51. Leap Masters' content aggregator partner, Buongiorno, distributed a ringtone and real-tone across Europe.
Results: As well as the track getting played on Radio 1 and attracting tens of thousands of women to Libresse's website, the "march" spot achieved the highest UK awareness for a Libresse commercial since the company's tracking records began in 1989.
Artist: Jackson and His Computer Band
Strategy: By using the single Utopia by a young, French band for VCCP's "bubble" ad, the mobile phone brand O2 was able to position itself at the cutting edge of new music. Warp Records and EMI Music Publishing decided to start promoting the track subtly online, boosting search rankings and making it simple for people to discover more about the music. Key to this was posting the ad on YouTube, where it was seen by thousands of viewers.
Results: Without alienating Jackson's underground audience, sales of the song through digital downloads rose 600 per cent in the month following the ad's release in May this year. Interest is still climbing and a release of the single is being planned in association with O2.
Artist: Nina Simone/Groovefinder
Strategy: In 2004, Stream licensed the original version of Nina Simone's Ain't Got No/I Got Life for a Muller ad by TBWA. The huge response to the music inspired Muller to capitalise on the track by commissioning a new version through Sony BMG, recorded by Groovefinder and released in April 2006 alongside a new Muller Vitally ad. Online comprised an e-card sent to 50,000 consumers, viewing of the ad and retail downloads of the music and ringtones.
Results: The reworked Nina Simone track has been heard by an astonishing 50 million people and was A-listed by Radio 2 for five weeks, reaching an estimated average weekly audience of 16 million listeners.
Artist: Jim Noir
Strategy: The "impossible team" ad by 180Amsterdam featured a soundtrack including the Jim Noir song Eanie Meany, with the lyric: "If you don't give me my football back/I'm gonna get my dad on you." Banking on Noir's up-and-coming status and working with Atlantic Records, Warner Music Special Projects and Noir's management company, Tuna Music, came up with an extensive campaign to exploit the brand's association with the music. The branded single was released to coincide with the World Cup, with a branded video using the same faces as the ad, while ringtones and downloads were widely available. The album and tour were peppered with branding, while Noir subtly sported Adidas merchandise.
Results: There have been more than 150,000 downloads of the ad.