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What Every CMO Should Know About Music

by Ruth Simmons  |  
December 29, 2009

Music is one of the most valuable tools at an advertiser's disposal. In 2006, the top 100 US advertisers splashed between $150 million and $2 billion just on sound-enabled media, such TV ads and the Internet, according to the Association of National Advertisers. In the UK, it is estimated that in 2008 the spend on acquiring copyright music for synchronization hit £60m ($98.8 million).

But brands have worked to understand how a particular target group, with shared values and aspirations, forms a loyalty to a specific brand. They have figured out how to manage and measure how we respond to color, texture, lighting, and other apparently visceral stimuli. So is sound simply the next frontier?

Sir John Hegarty, the man behind the Levi's jeans and Lynx deodorant ads, once claimed, "Music is 50% of an ad's success." Yet even today very few metrics are regularly applied within the planning and creative processes to measure the value of music and sound to a brand's marketing.

Consumers continue to struggle to connect tracks with most of the TV ads they are subjected to daily. On average, 30,000 commercials use music annually.

Yet at Cannes Lions 2008, an audience of international TV producers, creatives, and brand marketers discovered that, when challenged, they could accurately and spontaneously attribute the correct music to only some five products. Incidentally, one of those was Coca-Cola's "I'd like to teach the world to sing" ad—which aired in 1971.

Sound Can Be an Art and a Science, Too

It is hard to imagine a time when we couldn't put a value on what a brand stands for, but the science of branding is only a little more than 40 years old.

Then, great luminaries such as David A. Aaker, CEO of Prophet Branding Consultancy, and the late Stephen King, formerly head of planning at J. Walter Thompson, put structures and metrics in place that helped us understand what branding meant.

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Ruth Simmons is managing director of soundlounge (, a dedicated sound branding consultancy in London. Email her at

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