25 Nov 2011

Ad songs: do they work?

Ad songs: do they work for the product?

I heard this tune in an ad for a car brand. What happened was not opting for that car brand. Instead, I looked up the full song and discovered the singer and her work, and learned more about Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (like for example that it was originally written by W.A. Mozart). If I were to purchase a car, I would simply seek to know what features I need, and which car is the best for me, value for money, etc. These days all brands are similar in that respect, and look the same too - so in the end it would be a bit random - I would have to "think up" another reason in order to convince myself, and I would then identify with that reason in my head. The car brands do not put enough work into creating a specific image nowadays, either - there is nothing to "participate in", even if we wanted to. They have no personality, and there are no brand fanclubs the way there used to be when the automobile first came into being. You either get very large and opulent, or tiny, nimble or eco-friendly, and no song can tip the balance between what you identify with.

As for this clip, the mythological aspect is obvious, and the ad works on the principles of a music video. What happens is that the image sold is that of a "unique" product (the girl ignores other apples and goes for the one alone that calls to her specifically, and the audience is expected to identify with the girl and go for the perfume), but the mind immediately understands that any other perfume brand could have come up with the same Adam & Eve concept (likewise, why couldn't we go for other apples, if we are clearly not that particular girl?). So the final product placement is a predictable breach in the fantasy and as such dismissed by the mind. Besides: who in our technological, rationalistic world actually believes a perfume to be an "elixir" for real? The name can then only be used as interesting, exotic-sounding, not as a means to convince of its underlying magic.
On the other hand, we get the promotion of dreams, "flying" and soulmateship through this ad. And of individuality: but IF this girl is an individual on account of this perfume ("perfume" is synonymous with "essence"), then we are individuals by doing something else...

So when watching ads, the effect they seek is often reversed. People buy the products by virtue of knowing and trusting the brands for many years, which is something much stronger than ads. Ads are often ignored, but when they are interesting, they hardly induce opting for that particular product - they are only admired as art, as finished products in themselves.

So why do people who come up with them believe that ads work the way they imagine? Their explanations often sound silly and ill-thought to me. But it's quite simple: the work they do as teams, as people who challenge one another to be more competitive, more creative, etc. gives the actual feeling of power; and it is this, not the promise of money, which keeps some people glued to working overtime. In those moments, the stress, the feverish anticipation, the imagined connection with large numbers of people (the "Market"), all combine to give a sense of being connected - part of something larger. As a result, they often assume that everyone must relate to their output in the same way. This never happens fully, however - it's more of a case of negotiation for the purpose of creating one's own image.
They say that upon hearing the song, you will then think of the brand each time. Yes, perhaps - but I swear I can't remember the brands 3/4s of the times I like a song; and when I do remember, I sense it as an intrusion on my enjoyment of the song. I get repelled, not attracted.

Music in malls has a different effect, as music we like can lower barriers and the person then feels "plentiful" and open to spending a lot.

Someone here said that we should have a subject in school called "Deconstruction of Commercials", and someone else that competition should switch from image-making to solution-making: who comes up with the best possible solution to the problems we are facing, instead of inventing problems we never had in the first place. This is something I have noted for myself: how many people realize that they are trying to solve unreal problems, problems invented by those who wanted to sell you something? Is life supposed to be a zero-balanced equation, then?