Music in advertising

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Music in advertising refers to music integrated in (mass) electronic media advertisements in order to enhance its success. Music in advertising affects the way viewers perceive the brand by different means and on different levels.

Functions of music in advertising[edit]

“Music can serve the overall promotional goals in one or more of several capacities.”[1] Amongst these are six primary categories: entertainment, structure and continuity, memorability, lyrical language, and targeting and authority establishment.


The entertainment aspect of music helps make an advertisement more appealing by adding aesthetic value to it. An advertisement that has high aesthetic value will be able to capture more attention from the audience. From this point of view, “music need not necessarily manifest any special affinity with a particular product or service in order to play an effective and useful function.”[1]

The music functions more as bridge between viewer and advertisement in this case.

Structure and continuity[edit]

Music supports an advertisement's structure and continuity by mediating between disjoint images”.[1] Accompanying a TV commercial, music either structures the narrative or tells a narrative itself. It can also create antagonist and protagonist within this narrative by giving them typical musical figures, harmonies or melodies. Moreover, music has the ability to emphasize dramatic moments within the advertisement, therefore, create both structure and continuity.


"Music tends to linger in the listeners mind.”[1]

“Early advertising music also had different aims. Music then was primarily used as a mnemonic device. Rhyme and reception were used to keep a brand name in mind. ‘Singing commercials’ or jingles made up a self-contained genre.”[2] Huron adds that it is “the most common musical technique for aiding memorability and hence product recall.”[1] Companies use these for example to make the customers remember their phone number, webpage, their company name or at least a catchy slogan linked to the brand.

This does not imply that non-jingle music cannot embed on customers' mind and memory.

Lyrical language[edit]

For providing rational facts in the same time “mixtures of speech and song provide advertisers with opportunities for both logical, factual appeals [through spoken and written language] and emotive, poetic appeals [through music].”[1]

Contemporary advertisers must overcome the viewer’s innate skepticism, which developed over years through desensitization. Music can provide a message without the customers consciously noticing it; in other words, they are "uninvolved, nondecision-making consumers rather than cognitive active problem solvers” [3]

Targeting and authority establishment[edit]

Different types of music can be attributed to certain kinds of groups or lifestyles, which makes it possible to target different market segments with certain musical genres. Music can function as a non-verbal identifier for certain groups with different musical taste, because it is “arguably the greatest tool advertisers have for portraying and distinguishing various styles.”[1]

There is, for example, a difference between diegetic and non-diegetic use of music, which can have totally different effects, depending on the adverts' context.

The overall task of advertisers nowadays should be to develop a “considerable practical experience in joining images and music to social and psychological motivation[1] and by this process create meaning which appeals to the target group and helps the advertisement to succeed.

Interaction of music and brand[edit]

In general one could say that music can be altered in meaning depending on its context. This is of course an opportunity for advertisers to create meaning for their brand by employing musical pieces for their own interest. But music has “a potential for the construction or negotiation of meaning in specific contexts.”[4] That means that some music can match better with one type of products than with another type. Different musical types can i.e. target high culture or popular culture oriented customers. The reason is that “musical styles and genres offer unsurpassed opportunities for communicating complex social or attitudinal messages practically instantaneously.”[5] One could literally say that music is worth a thousand words. That’s why music became more and more important to advertisers. They have the chance to transfer specific characteristics connoted to certain musical types to their products. “Music now is more often employed as ‘borrowed interest’ capturing a feeling, setting a mood, recalling past experiences and playing them back on behalf of the sponsors.”[2] All these attributes help an advertisement appealing to the life world or lifestyle of the targeted group.

And of course “music transfers its own attributes to the story line and to the product, it creates coherence, making connections that are not there in the words or pictures; it even engenders meanings of its own […] the music interprets the words and pictures.”[6] It is obvious that a brand’s, product’s or service’s value is enhanced by the connection to music. It adopts meanings which are inherent in the music because “the object itself is not enough to sell it; it must also be linked to some sort of personal meaning, the very essence of branding.”[7] That means that a brand or product has to pick up some kind of connotation which is added by the music. Also a certain artist can change or shape an advert so that it fits a certain target group. “Advertising is not about what the product does but who the consumer is”[8] and so advertisements have to find a good balance between adopting meaning from a used musical piece or artist and providing context in return to become authentic. Both the music and the advertisement can benefit from this symbiosis. There are artists and music bands that became famous through having their music inside of adverts which can in return mean to sacrifice their music to the brand.

“The joining of music culture, through either a licensed track or the appearance of an artist, with a product or service in a commercial brings new connotations to both artist [and also the music] and company while naturalizing the relationship between the two. The value of articulating popular music to a product can be seen as especially important to advertisers competing with products similar, if not identical, in use-value.”[9]

Music bed[edit]

A music bed is a part of a jingle, or alternatively the entire jingle, where there are no sung vocalist. In other words, if refers to a section where only instruments are heard. Music beds make it possible for a voice over to be spoken over the top, without the spoken words being interfered with by the sung vocals. For this reason, companies usually have different cuts of their jingle, so they can use each of the different versions for different purposes, depending on the context.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Huron, David (1989). "Music in Advertising" (PDF). The Musical Quarterly 73 (4): 560–569. doi:10.1093/mq/73.4.557. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Carrie McLaren, Rick Prelinger "Salesnoise: the convergence of music and advertising“, Stay Free! 15 fall 1998, p. 1
  3. ^ Alpert, Judy; Alpert, Mark (1989). "Background Music As an Influence in Consumer Mood and Advertising Responses". Advances in Consumer Research 16: 485–491. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Nicholas Cook "Music and Meaning in the Commercials“, Popular Music, 1994, vol. 13, nr. 1, p. 39
  5. ^ Nicholas Cook "Music and Meaning in the Commercials“, Popular Music, 1994, vol. 13, nr. 1, p. 35
  6. ^ Nicholas Cook "Music and Meaning in the Commercials“, Popular Music, 1994, vol. 13, nr. 1, p. 38
  7. ^ Bethany Klein "In Perfect Harmony: Popular Music and Cola Advertising“, p 4
  8. ^ Bethany Klein "In Perfect Harmony: Popular Music and Cola Advertising“, p 6
  9. ^ Bethany Klein "In Perfect Harmony: Popular Music and #Cola Advertising“, p 5
  10. ^

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