Music and advertising have gone hand-in-hand for years, and as brands seek to tap into pop culture, the use of music in advertising is on the rise. However, a lot of the brands that are applying this strategy locally are falling short.
If you are a regular visitor to the Genesis Deluxe Cinema at the Palms Mall, you would have in the last six months seen the Coleman Wires and Cables advertisement. The television commercial (advert) features comedian AY Makun singing and dancing in a warehouse alongside workers in blue overalls. One cannot but wonder what dance has got to do with the quality of cables. It is harrowing to watch.
When watching television in the comfort of your home, it’s not different. On CNN, the Cars45 advert follows the same pattern. Tune to the “Big Brother Naija” reality show and you will be inundated with loads of adverts – Delta Soap, TCB Naturals, Pure Bliss and WAW – which use music unimaginatively. They all feature groups of people dancing and fail to harness the power of music to tell a story.
While there are times that combining music with a dance routine is the appropriate creative expression for an advertisement, there are many more ways to use music in advertising effectively.
In a sense, a television commercial is an extensively cut-down shot film. It begins with an idea that is developed into a script. Thereafter is the casting of actors, the shoot and the post-production, which marks the end of the process. But at the centre of this process is storytelling – and the story is the message. The message or idea is expressed using the head or heart approach, also referred to as hard or soft sell, or a combination of both.
Hard sell messages are direct. They are informational and designed to create a logic-based response from the audience. This message strategy is the rational approach and could be expressed by showing the product benefit like fuel economy for a car; a promise – such as ‘Life’s Good’, the LG pay-off line; a reason to take an action for instance, ‘because flying is faster than travelling by road’, or emphasising the uniqueness of the product. The formats for these adverts include demonstrations, comparisons, testimonials and slice-of-life, among others.
On the flip side, soft sell adverts use emotional appeal as the messaging strategy. Again, just like films, advertising based on emotional appeal seeks to elicit responses such as love, hate, anger, joy, sorrow, disgust, fear, pride, nostalgia, among others. Case in point, an advert designed to discourage drinking and driving might use fear as the central idea.
Music can be a powerful tool for emotional appeal. Where the objective of brand awareness has been achieved, the next goal could be to deliver a message the audience likes in order to create liking for a brand. At such times, beyond being catchy, music is used to stimulate an emotional response by effectively combining it with strong storytelling. The music can either be an existing song, which is licensed or a song specifically produced for the commercial.
Noah’s Ark Communications deserves accolades for the very creative advertising they have done for Airtel in the last two years, or so. Airtel’s “Gele” is a good example of how to use music effectively in a television commercial. Nigerian singer Teniola Apata, also known as “Teni the Entertainer,” made the song specially for the commercial. Not only is it an extremely memorable song, the message is brought to life with a clever story that uses “Gele” as a metaphor to show comparison between 3G and 4G networks. Even non-Airtel customers relate to the advert.
“Gele” is the needed breath of fresh air during the “Big Brother Naija” advertisement break. But for such advertisements, one could have concluded that creativity in Nigeria’s advertising sector has gone with the wind. Then again, perhaps the truth is that most brands have settled for quacks.
In May 2015, FrieslandCampina WAMCO published an old Peak Milk advert, “Generation,” on YouTube. It was in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Peak Milk in Nigeria. Despite being at least 25 years old, the advert elicited joy and nostalgia. It proved that catchy lyrics and the emotional impact of music can result in a timeless advert.
Advertisements are intended to create awareness, endear the audience to a brand, encourage an audience to try a product, sign-up to a service or an initiative. To achieve this, the advertising mustn’t only grab attention but it must be relevant, believable and most importantly, memorable. Consequently, if your advertising agency proposes an advert using music, ask the agency if people will remember it and sing-along decades later.