Music choice is a driving force for a making a powerful cultural legacy and the festive period provides brings its role into sharp focus

Often we find it difficult to say how we feel to those around us, but music has always been a means of enabling expression by piecing together the missing words that we are trying to convey. The communications sphere within the advertising industry suffers from the same problem and is rife with invasive and impersonal media targeting that encroaches our lives on a daily basis, producing ineffective work which similarly fails to connect and impart the message and culture of a brand. While it is always a challenge to strike an emotional cord with consumers through adverts, music has an obvious capacity to provoke a sense of both nostalgia and affection in equal measures. During the annual run up to Christmas, advertisers place the seemingly lost art of stimulating an emotional response in people through words and melodies.

Music is unrivalled in its capacity to draw out the depths of human emotion, and this is never more evident than at Christmas time. It is no surprise that John Lewis’s annual Christmas advert has become the most eagerly anticipated television franchise. Around 2 weeks ago, the company released its 2017 #MozTheMonster campaign, which cost around 7 million to make and ran to the tune of Guy Garvey’s uplifting version of a classic Beatles tune ‘Golden Slumbers’ and it radiated the kind of warm stirring that we have grown familiar with around this time of the year. Pete Jobson, a close friend of Guy for 15 years voiced his opinion of the latter in an interview with The Guardian, declaring that ‘He’s on the side of the good: community, family values. He sings about what he needs to sing about. It’s courageous, heart-on-your-sleeve stuff’. Michel Gondry directed this campaign, and would have been acutely aware of the need to select a specific soundtrack that would invoke these core values.

Song choice in an advert of this scale is an indispensable ingredient of its success. And so it proved yesterday for John Lewis, whose starry night light that appears in the end of the advert proved a hit with consumers and sold out within hours of its release on twitter. Today, due to excessive demand, John Lewis has limited sales of the light to just one light per customer. They should be applauded for their capacity to consistently elicit a feel good factor and tap into existing memory structures of family, love and storytelling, and deliver it with a fresh sense of cultural relevance.

In a time when the industry is being pervaded by the unshakable influence of data, the most impactful creative work seems to be produced around the Christmas period. It is a timely reminder of that data will never be an improvement on the human influence. When Marc Pritchard delivered a scathing attack on digital media back in January at the US Advertising Bureau Annual Leadership Meeting, he encouraged others to restore the humanity back in their work and to follow his lead in pulling back on the amount spent on these online platforms, rendering it a fraudulent and unfruitful activity. He highlighted its unsuitability when he estimated that roughly only 25% of digital media reaches consumers and that ads are often viewed by robots and not humans. In light of his comments, it is clear that the number of clicks and views on an ad is not conducive to any kind of success. What truly counts at the end of the day is memorability, which is achieved when the message of an advert is both informative and evocative.

The phrase “If you build it, they will come” springs to mind when the process of constructing a culture and a legacy takes precedence over instantaneous sales and the need for immediate gratification. It takes more than a brief glance at a pop-up to feel connected with a brand. Leo Rayman, the Chief executive of Grey London ‘The festive season accounts for such a significant proportion of sales that there can be no holding back on ad spend’. It is no surprise that the festive period oversees the most creative and hotly anticipated work.

Whether you prefer M&S’s endearing and quintessentially British Paddington bear, John Lewis’s Moz the Monster or Sainsbury’s catchy singalong #everybitofChristmas, the powerful combination of familiar lyrics, bells chiming and eloquent storytelling remains the most effective way for a brand to make an indelible stamp of authority. A study from the group Nielsen illustrated that consumers consider adverts with music to be more creative and memorable compared to those without. It is no wonder that we have seen high profile stars such as Tom Jones and Ray Charles featuring in ads for Coca Cola. Or David Bowie and Michael Jackson performing for Pepsi. In doing so, brands are capable of guaranteeing an improvement on the perceptions of their products.

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