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HOW TO HARMONISE MUSIC AND MARKETING - ROUNDTABLE DEBATE
Marketers could gain strategic benefit (or even just avoid a last-minute cock-up) if only they included music, and the rights owners, in the early stages of the briefing process. By Steve Hemsley
Earlier this year, Natasha Baldwin and her colleagues at Imagem Creative Services sat down with the brand team at the Bank of Scotland and talked about music.
Following the financial crisis, the bank wanted a track to help its advertising convey an empathetic and supportive tone.
The track chosen - in consultation with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R - was Run by the artist Broadcast 2000, the only pop band ever to be published by the classical music specialist Boosey & Hawkes (now owned by Imagem). The acoustic guitars, vocals and glockenspiels - and the absence of drums - provided the warmth the client was looking for.
Baldwin, Imagem's group director of synchs and creative services, makes the point to fellow guests at Campaign's Music Roundtable that finding a relevant piece of music for an ad doesn't always have to be a headache.
The potential difficulties related to rights clearances and budgets can be avoided if client, agency and music licensing company work together early on in the process.
"This was a three-way communication which enabled the brand and the agency to find the track they wanted before the post-production stages, and for us to investigate, negotiate and clear all the music rights before the air date," Baldwin says. "The process ran smoothly because everyone knew their role, fulfilled their functions and created a campaign that is now very successful in Scotland and is testing extremely well."
Too often, however, music companies feel they are drafted in too late.
What is clear from this roundtable lunch debate is that tensions inevitably run high whenever these two immensely creative industries of music and advertising are brought together.
There is nothing more frustrating for a brand and its agency to discover in post-production that a track they have fallen in love with cannot be cleared within the cost and time constraints. And for the music business, a feeling that its creative work is sometimes undervalued by the advertising industry can be equally maddening.
Ruth Simmons, the managing director at the consultancy soundlounge, says that while many brands claim to be music-driven at the start of the creative process, this thinking soon gets lost. "By the time they get to choose the music, there is little money left or not enough time to get clearance," she says. "This means there's a disconnection between what brands want in terms of music at the beginning and what they end up with."
But Mick Fish, the head of TV admin at Euro RSCG, says it is not always possible to choose music early. "Often an agency is putting a number of creative ideas to a client and waiting to see which one the brand buys into before thinking about licensing the music," he explains.
It can also be difficult to convince a client of the value of music to an ad campaign, he adds. "If the idea is to go for an 80s nostalgic feel, then it can be straightforward to show a client how music can drive that idea forward," Fish says. "At other times, persuading them to go for a higher budget and use a well-known track by a familiar band - and therefore enhance the mood of the commercial - can be a harder sell."
Simmons suggests brand managers and agency creatives who are struggling to agree on a track need to remove subjectivity from the equation. "The good thing about music is that you get emotional about it, and the bad thing about music is that you get emotional about it. This is about getting back to basics and thinking how the consumer will relate to the music being used," she says.
However, as Rosie Hill, a senior music consultant at Imagem, points out, individuals will often experience different emotions when they hear the same piece of music. "This is why briefs need to be much clearer and more in-depth than simply asking for a 'mood piece'," she says. "I like The Smiths, which means I actually feel happy when I hear their music."
An objective approach may go some way to helping smooth the path to track selection, but it won't eliminate the exasperation felt by agencies and marketers when things fall down at the final approval stage.
Mood Media acts as a conduit between record labels and brands to provide music concepts for retailers. The chief concept officer, Ben Curwin, says brands cannot take anything for granted when dealing with artists: "Although artists are becoming more realistic about where their bread is buttered and realise now that advertising can be a huge earner for them, they can still be picky."
Yellow Boat Music is run by the music producer Paul Cartledge and the composer Philip Jewson. As artists themselves, they answer advertising briefs and will also incorporate other artists' music. Cartledge makes the point that each artist has a unique relationship with their record company and publisher, and every negotiation regarding the use of their music will be different.
"The major point is that most commercially available recordings were not created with secondary uses, such as advertising, in mind, therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone when negotiations take unexpected turns," he says.
One possible solution is for agencies to commission a "soundalike" recording as a contingency for when things go wrong. In one such case, a popular singer, who had the final say on the rights to their vocal being used, withheld permission until the last moment. "We had spent the week creating a plan B arrangement which was ultimately time wasted," Cartledge recalls, "but at least there was recognition that things may not have gone the way everyone wanted and there was a workable alternative."
Yellow Boat Music writes bespoke music for brands, but Jewson says this can make it harder for clients to warm to a track. "If there is no emotional attachment because it is something completely new, we urge agencies and clients to listen to different versions because it can be harder to attach yourself to one track," he says.
Fish says music composing companies offer a quick and cost-effective solution for brands, but the relationship with record companies and publishers is changing.
In a new development, music publishers have approached Euro RSCG about using a roster of their established songwriters to write specifically for commercials.
Obviously there are advantages of having a well-known and successful writer attached to a campaign, including the publicity such an endorsement might engender. But Fish wonders whether there may be a potential downside if writers struggle to stick to a commercial brief. "I can envisage a clash between artistic credibility and commerciality," he says.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that the music industry would like to be taken more seriously by their brand partners (who wouldn't?), but there is a tangible sense of missed opportunity around the Campaign dining-room table. Marketers would benefit from devising twoor three-year strategies around music, our lunchers agree, but this is a rarity because everyone feels they "know" music and are therefore partial experts.
Jamie Davies, the creative director at Mood Media, is surprised that many brands don't take music as seriously as other factors, despite its power to influence consumers and boost a brand's image, credibility and, ultimately, sales. "There is a benefit from having powerful, well-structured and strategic brand partnerships with various artists," he explains. "These could take the form of 'secret gigs', co-designed clothing, product placement in videos or simple online competitions."
All these areas add value either commercially or from a brand perspective, Davies' colleague Curwin adds. "In some cases, investment can be sizeable, and in others, minimal. ROI can be measured in pure financial terms and, in other cases, in media value. A big artist can deliver a lot of noise, which has immense value."
He cites the deal Mood Media brokered between the Universal Music artist Pixie Lott and the high-street fashion brand Lipsy. The artist makes appearances in-store to promote the "Pixie Collection" clothing range, as well as her music.
Longer-term relationships with artists, labels and publishers could be one way to avoid last-minute problems around budget and time constraints.
Stephen Somerville, the commercial director at 7digital, notices another development - a move away from the one-off, "this product fits this band", approach. "If you look at where the action is with digital, it is about giving consumers access to music as a whole rather than particular bands or labels. Brands need to think like this," he says. "A brand's consumers will like different types of music, so they should be helping to make all types of music available via the various digital platforms and devices that are out there."
He adds that artists can benefit from social media (think Rage Against The Machine getting to number one thanks to a Facebook campaign), but it can be hard for brands to benefit from the medium because any interest generated has to be organic.
Jim Sanders, 7digital's head of business development, says this is why brands must have a thorough understanding of how their target audience wants to consume music and not assume it is only about digital. "Some people still prefer to buy physical products," he says, "although digital does mean clients and agencies can arguably be more creative with how they use music."
Digital technology is certainly constantly changing the way consumers and brands engage with music. Take the We7 music streaming service launched in the week of Campaign's roundtable. It is an ad-funded, on- demand online music model that covers the fees owed to the Performing Right Society, artists and music publishers. In the same week, Spotify announced new social features.
Soundlounge's Simmons, however, says the delivery platform is a red herring. "The thing that holds all these sites together is the emotional power of the music that people want to listen to - this is what drives traffic to these services," she says.
She believes the ad world needs to find ways to make use of the new ways consumers are listening to music.
"If a commercial featured a Spotify link which enabled the consumer to hear the whole featured track for free, it would achieve two things," she says. "It would be an opportunity for a brand to connect personally with their consumers by sharing the emotion of the commercial again and again, and for the music to be enjoyed on a whole new level."
Wrapping up the debate, Campaign's editor, Claire Beale, wonders if there is an industry body that champions music-related issues to adland and marketers, or if some other forum for discussion exists.
Simmons is the first one to acknowledge the irony that, in this context, the music business has no voice.