In many cases, music will follow wherever you go and whatever you’re doing. Not the music you choose to listen to yourself, either through your headphones or at a gig, but a different kind of music that’s way more ubiquitous and subliminal – designed to play with your mind.
Music can change the way we think, feel and act. From the earliest days in our existence, we have banged animal hides, plucked strings and spun records to satisfy our cravings for rhythm. Music is a kind of drug, helping us to explore our feelings, heighten the sensation of the passing of time, and even enhance our memories. Music is even used therapeutically, helping injured and disabled people as well as those with mental health issues to recover.
These deep, instinct-driven reactions we have to harmony, rhythm and volume can be taken advantage of for various reasons. While using music to advertise and sell a product is far from a new concept, the sheer amount of advertising we’re now exposed to has forced companies to take a different approach. Now, instead of an advert that has a few seconds of dialogue and a bit of background music, entire advertising campaigns are being built around individual songs, with the musical piece the spine of the strategy.
Music influences thought
DIY retailers Homebase used Peter, Bjorn and John’s 2006 single ‘Young Folks’ as the backing music to their TV adverts, a campaign which lasted several years and made the song synonymous with the company. Although many people bemoan that what is a great song has effectively been “played to death” after appearing up to 50 times a day on commercial TV, the advert did its job. Whenever people hear the song, many of them now think of Homebase.
Walk into any shop and you’ll have a similar experience. Clothes shops appear to focus on playing the latest hits or dance music in store – because these songs are broad enough to resonate with a general customer base. This not only helps the store to create an image, associating with artists who are likely fashion icons too, but also sets the tone for customers. Faster tempos make people shop quicker, buy more, and find inspiration. Music is all about mood, and of course major, upbeat songs do a better job of getting people to reach into their wallets than a slow, sad ballad.
Dancing dogs and Irish dancing
Online casinos may not be able to take advantage of the control that music can have on punters, but you’ll certainly hear plenty of music on the countless TV adverts used to drive traffic to online gaming websites. In an advert from UK online bingo Wink Bingo, there’s an amusing homage to Riverdance, the popular Irish dancing sensation made popular by Michael Flatley. Of course, there’s some traditional Irish folk music, but the show is definitely stolen by the dancing dog who joins in. Sure, the advert is great fun, but it wouldn’t make any sense if another song was played or if there was no music at all – as soon as the Irish jig starts, you know where the advert is going.
The key thing you’ll notice with adverts like these is that a story is being told. As online gaming aren’t selling anything physical, and the products that are being offered (bingo games, casino table games) sometimes aren’t unique, then adverts tend to be driven by people, with the experience matched to the individual – personalised to their tastes and preferences. This is where music helps to convey that story, driving a narrative that puts the viewer in the shoes of the person on screen, rather than bombarding them with images of casino games or generic ‘bright lights and flashing buttons’. Wink Bingo and their parent company 888 Holdings have pedigree in this area, with the recent Slot Races advert also taking a twist from the ordinary to provide more engaging adverts, naturally backed up with music.
It might be distressing to learn that the great song you just heard is all of a sudden going to be repeated 500 times a day for 12 months – but think what the artists are getting from the deal. It’s no surprise that even the most alternative bands are happy to soundtrack an advert, simply for the fact that the royalties generated go through the roof when a track is featured during prime-time TV.
So next time you’re watching TV, shopping, or online, think of all the effort that goes into selecting the background music you think you’re ignoring. From motivational tunes to the heart-wrenching song that means you end up signing up to that charity appeal, as humans we’re programmed to respond to music – and there’s nothing we can do about it.