Our deep-seated emotional tie with music, along with the power of our memory, can leave a track reverberating in our minds when recalling a certain time or event. From your favorite summer jam and the song playing during your first wedding dance to the tune that your mother relentlessly played in the car when you were a child, music leaves a lasting impression that is synced with some of our most prominent memories.
Much of today’s greatest advertising work is driven by the seamless sound design, the cinematic scoring, or the carefully chosen music track that marries the picture and the narrative. Music has the power to impact viewers in ways that transcend geography, economic status, gender, political views, and beyond.
While viewers may not always be able to consciously separate the picture from the audio, the second you strip away the music, you are oftentimes left with a piece that is starkly void of emotion. From ads that soar into our hearts with poetic melodies to spots perfectly paired with tracks from some of today’s most popular artists, here are some of the ads that have stood out to me as uniquely audio-driven and instantly memorable.
1. Honda: “Hate Something, Change Something”
Original music composition: Eclectic Music
I truly love this spot. I worked at an animation studio at the time this was released, and I remember wishing that we had been able to create, illustrate, and animate this piece. But since moving to the audio side, I am now more jealous not to have had the chance for my composers to work on the composition, as the lyrics and music form the tone, pace, and style of the visuals.
The delightfully clever lyrics, mirrored by a nursery school-style approach to the music, leaves you humming along. The music is perfectly embedded with the seamless sound design guiding along the youthful animations and really seeding the fact that the topic is for the betterment of all humans, regardless of age.
2. NY Lotto: “Fort”
Original music composition: Scott Langley, Nylon Studios
The beauty and strength of this track truly tugs on the heartstrings of viewers, with its concept about coming back to the importance of family time, not the obligatory junk you can buy with a lottery win. People really engaged with this composition and the message at its core. A grandmother actually reached out asking for the sheet music for her 6-year-old granddaughter!
3. Sony Bravia: “Bouncing Balls”
Music supervision and licensing: “Heartbeats,” Jose Gonzalez
This was a game-changer for me early in my career. The combination of emotive, gorgeous, and mellow sounds with the stunning unexpected visuals of 250,000 colorful bouncing balls down a San Francisco street was a standout in the industry. Due to the popularity of this ad, they released the track off the album as a single, and I even bought it based on this emotive ad!
4. Samsung: “Ostrich”
Music supervision and licensing: “Rocket Man,” Elton John, Music Director Chris Clark, Leo Burnett Chicago
When the lyrics and the tone of a selected piece of music marry so perfectly with the pictures, you have one hell of a spot. This is sync gold, as the track matches the story arc so perfectly and hits all the right moments. I challenge anybody to try not to smile throughout.
5. Adidas: “Your Future is Not Mine”
Music supervision, licensing, and rerecord: “My Way,” original by Frank Sinatra, music by Squeak E Clean
This is a musical homerun for taking a sync track—a Sinatra master that everyone knows—and making it contemporary and individualized by each group. The song builds perfectly to develop the message and drive home the Adidas brand positioning of being for unique individuals.
6. CUB: “Big Ad”
Music supervision, licensing, and rerecord: music by Cezary Skubiszewski
Groundbreaking spot at the time in Australia, and even though it’s so quintessentially Aussie, it’s a universal piece. This choice of song was a truly inspired moment for this ad. The recognizability and grandeur of this track juxtaposed with the irreverent lyrics makes it an instant classic. It definitely resonated with Aussie audiences and goes down as one of the country’s iconic ads and re-records.
7. UNICEF: “2016 Brand Film”
Original music composition: Composer Jesse Watt, Nylon Studios
UNICEF is such an important organization that helps so many in need around the world, and this track for its global campaign embraced the truly powerful and global brand and the work that they do. With vocals from Lisa Gerard, paired with a voiceover by Liam Neeson, this sweeping orchestral piece truly channels the message at the core of the organization.
8. Rainbow: “Lurpak”
Original music composition and sound design: Composer Michael Russoff, Wave Studios
Advertising at its jingle best! A truly great amalgamation of jingle and sound design to create an engaging and entertaining ad. The incredible sound design, guided by the tempo of the music, is central to the spot. Once again, we see a juxtaposition of the gravelly character voice that brings something so different to the piece and the brand. You could almost imagine Leonard Cohen or Tom Watts singing this in their kitchen!
9. Audi “Hummingbird”
Music supervision: Finger Music “Open Road, Open Sky” by John Charles Thomas
Pairing this vintage operatic track with the dynamic 3D animated visuals really brings a unique sense of whimsy in an otherwise cold and aloof environment. The track brings a certain rustic charm to the spot, and when coupled with seamless sound design, it brings life, energy, and approachability to the slick CGI imagery.