How important is sound in commercials?

By: Ryan Miller

Sound might be the least utilized tool in your marketing toolbox. It tends to be an afterthought when creating ads, but it’s often what grabs people the most.

Picture this; you’re sitting on the couch, mindlessly scrolling through your phone with music playing in the background. Suddenly you hear the iconic Indiana Jones theme song and you can’t help but tune in and listen to the ad about the new franchise collaboration with an unfamiliar brand. A few seconds of a song pulled your attention away from your emails in an instant.

That’s powerful.

And yet, too often in advertising, sound ends up being one of the least emphasized parts of a piece of creative.

“Advertisers need to keep in mind that if you don’t have good quality, compelling audio, the visuals will fall flat,” says Ryan Cork, Director at Tapeless. “In fact, audio is so powerful that ads can be compelling without visuals. Podcasts are a great example because they pair narrative with sounds in a way that visuals would actually take away from the experience.”

Channeling Your Emotions

Studies have proven that audio has a powerful influence over our emotions and behavior, but where do you start when editing a spot?

“Where music always starts for me is emotion,” says Cork. “I ask myself,  ‘How should the audience feel when they hear this spot?’ and try to find something that evokes specific emotions.”

With screenless media consumption on the rise, sound is an increasingly important part of every ad. When you’re testing various music options, pay close attention to your psychological response.

“We put ourselves in the shoes of the listener,” says Nick Miller, Editor at Tapeless. “There’s a lot of trial and error involved because audio has the ability to completely transform an ad. You don’t know what kind of impact it will have until you see it on the screen or hear it in your headphones.”

Audio Engineering Apps for Beginners

While at Hackfort, we sat in on an audio engineering session with DJ Michna and learned how he finds and makes the right music for commercials and television shows. His sound design has been featured in ads for brands like Gillette and on television shows for companies like HBO and his biggest piece of advice is simple: try new things. DJ Michna has sampled anything from old vinyls to hitting a Pringles jar with a pencil to come up with the right sound for commercials. Here are a few of his recommended iOS apps for those who want to play with sound themselves:

  • Oval Synth: Good quality synthesis and effects. This app is free!
  • TF8 Synth: Virtual analog synthesizers with really small file sizes. This app is free!
  • Blocs Wave: Music app for making and recording music quickly. This app is free!
  • Flux:FX Play: It’s like having an Eventide Harmonizer in your pocket. This app is $1.99!

Whether you’re creating a broadcast radio spot or a television or web commercial, pay close attention to the sounds that you are selecting. If you’re interested in learning more about the impact of audio, check out these strategies to turn up your brand’s volume!