Have you ever cried over a gum commercial? If not, you may want to check out this video by Extra Gum from 2015. Without giving too much away, the commercial details the highs and lows of a young couple’s relationship through gum wrappers. The idea itself is cute enough, but what sends it over to Tear Town is most likely due to the musical selection.
You may recognize Haley Reinhart from Season 10 of American Idol, where her sultry vocals brought her to 3rd place in the competition. Her rendition of the Elvis classic, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” sets the mood in this particular Extra gum commercial, the minimalist quality lending itself beautifully to the raw palate of the story. As the couple’s lives become more securely entwined, the gum wrappers and this song are the thread that ties each moment to the next, eventually wrapping it up in a big, heart-rending bow that settles right over the lump in our throats. Voilà: emotional reaction to gum.
Clearly, the agency that came up with this campaign wanted the emotional reaction from their consumers, which is why they chose the song. That idea seems simple enough: if you want your ad to be about love, choose a love song. If you want it to be an angry ad, choose angry music. If you had replace the song from the above ad with the theme from Jaws, it would have been a very different commercial. You have the ability influence how your audience feels, especially through music.
Another commercial with notable music surfaced in 2011 from Geico. Check out Geico's commercial on here on Youtube. The video features a quirky tune reminiscent of the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack (but actually originates from a band in Norway) and sets the mood nicely for the moving sidewalk at the airport. The song lingers happily in the background as a caveman passes a Geiko sign with the words “So easy a caveman can do it.” Cue embarrassment for caveman and Geico's logo.
A major difference between this ad and the first is that in this one, the music only matches the subject's mood for part of the commercial. The music we hear serves both as a believable airport soundtrack, as well as something that makes it okay for us to laugh at this individual’s embarrassment. Were we to hear the commercial’s mood through the caveman after he reads the sign, perhaps Royksopp’s “Remind Me” would have been replaced by REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” We might have still grinned a little, but we would ultimately be made to feel sorry for the poor, insulted cave man.
So really, this music thing isn’t so hard for advertising, right? That really depends on who you ask. Not all consumers are going to enjoy the same music or, for that matter, feel the same way about it. For example, the first commercial may well have sounded better to someone else using a Top 40 type of pop song, rather than a cover of a classic, or with no music at all because some people are pretty indifferent when it comes to music.
To some of us, this can be a hard fact to digest because it’s different than simply not noticing music. There are plenty of people who enjoy going to movies but couldn’t tell you anything about it’s soundtrack. Many people do, however, remember how that movie made them feel. This article by The Verge delves into scientific research about people whose brains just aren’t wired in a way that allows them to be emotionally invested in music. This doesn’t, however, mean that they won’t still watch your advertisement. It just means that you have to get more creative!
While advertising shouldn’t aim to please everybody, it is also very important to consider the demographics when choosing music to accompany the ads. Mix it up a little: try using music that is ironic, rather than in alignment with the mood of the commercial. Use a lesser-known band and boost their ratings along with their own. With an endless library of musical talent in this world, the sky is quite literally the limit.