Something several of the most renown advertisements of this decade have in common is that they all involve music, and not simply in the rather worn-off form of a jingle. Think of John Lewis, for example, whose traditional Christmas adverts are as famous for the music they include as the whole storytelling. Vodafone, for instance, also set the Dandy Warhol’s song, Bohemian Like You, for success, as it managed to enter the UK’s top five charts.

Since the era of advertising started, one thing was clear: music and TV go hand in hand, but why do musical elements fit so well in ads and other audiovisual projects? Let’s find out.

It’s All About The Emotional Impact

There are plenty of original soundtrack songs that are simply stuck in our minds. They remind us of a certain time, individual or place in our lives. As discussed in other articles, music and musical elements are pivotal for any audiovisual project simply because, in order to process music, we use the same parts of the brain that are also the ones responsible for triggering emotion and memory.

Because of the human capability of emotionally associating a piece of music to something either positive or negative (which depends on the context and nature of the sounds), the associated memory tends to equal in strength that exact same emotion. The theory does not elaborate on whether it applies to moments in our everyday life, which it does, but rather on how this phenomenon resonates on songs in film, or music in radio, or ads. As for the type of music that triggers this particular area of the brain, its nature is somewhat special —it’s not just any type of music, though. As shown in this study, a group of Australians reacted to a series of audio clips, and their reactions suggested that different types of music can produce strong, but very different, types of emotional responses.

Different types of melodies, key changes, chords, etc., can produce and cause different responses. A string ensemble, for example, when playing sharp and long notes in a major key, were able to cause feelings related to happiness in almost 90% of the people assessed. On the other hand, a dramatic shift from major to minor tonality elicited the opposite feeling in the respondents —sadness and melancholy. An acoustic guitar is highly associated with calm and sophistication, as suggested by almost 83% of the respondents.

The aforementioned examples show how important it is for filmmakers and advertisers to have a deep understanding of the emotion they want to convey, but most importantly, the emotion they want to cause in the audience.¡ —and what type of music is more suitable for such a purpose.

And It’s Also About Telling The Story

Although music and musical elements on their own are an unquestionably powerful tool, they acquire a far more authentic effect when they accompany a story within a solid narrative arc. According to a study, and after having analyzed more than 100 ads to identify which ones were more correlated with long-term memory, the fact that music in TV ads, for example, becomes way more memorable when the music drives the action of the moving images being projected. For instance, if the lyrics match what is happening. The visual part is eye-catching enough sometimes; but when melodic music comes in, it sort of creates a hypnotic effect on the audience which triggers the areas of the brain previously addressed.

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In a wider general sense, music and musical elements can definitely set the tone for a business’s or a brand’s personality, as well as to address a specific type of audience or portion of a specific demography. Adidas or Puma often target younger audiences when it comes to their activewear, for instance.

Creating From Scratch

Many filmmakers or advertises often choose existing tracks or songs from renowned artists; however, especially in filmmaking, many directors rely on composers to create an original soundtrack for a film. And it definitely works: Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Howard Shore, Ennio Morricone, James Horner, etc., are known for having created some of Hollywood’s best tracks for films. Who doesn’t remember Jaws for its soundtrack? Or Star Wars? Or Indiana Jones? Or Interstellar? Or the Lord of The Rings? The list goes on and on, but most importantly, the fact that movies serve as the perfect opportunity to craft a compelling and emotionally aggressive soundtrack, confirms the initial thesis that raises the question: is music really important in films and ads? Of course it is, and of course, it will always be. Without music, some parts of the action go missing. There’s simply no way to engage with an audience if an emotive soundtrack is not present. Music helps to tell the story; music is what people remember and what gets stuck in people’s minds.