In 1995, Microsoft paid a reported $4 million to use The Rolling Stones' famous song "Start Me Up" in ads for its Windows95. According to one of Madison Avenue's most influential agencies, in 2014 that money would not be well spent.
MediaVest, an ad-buying firm that helps guide the marketing strategies of such ad giants as Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, has released a new study suggesting that advertisers stop jamming pop songs into commercials and instead devise new ways to help the new swelling generation of millennials gain direct access to artists and songs.
Brian Terkelsen, chief executive of MediaVest USA, the Publics Groupe-owned agency that allocates spending for many blue-chip clients, describing the new ways younger consumers interact with audio. While songs are still served up through radio airplay and record-label releases, much more of them surface to people born between 1980 and the early 2000s through downloads, streaming and viral pass-along.
MediaVest spent a year interviewing more than 2000 U.S. consumers and making use of online discussion groups and ethnographic studies of 8 U.S. markets and has determined that younger consumers would identify less with music that is programmed for them or delivered to them in tandem with a traditional 30-second commercial and would think more fondly of any entity that can help them find out more information about songs and artists they like or even deliver experiences associated with such stuff.
At music-streaming service Spotify, advertisers can link themselves to distribution of new songs, said Erin Clift, vice president of global marketing. McDonald's, for example, takes part in something called "The Drop," where users can gain access to content in the days leading up to a big launch. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, has created a profile within Spotify that presents playlists and collections of music that the company curates for its consumers. Sometimes, said Clift, the songs try to burnish the idea of "happiness" or "happy moments," which fits with the slogan for the company's flagship drink, "Open Happiness."
The advertiser is "inviting them in to both participate and to sort of lean back and listen to follow," Clift said.
Now that music has become seemingly "ubiquitous" in an age of digital distribution. MediaVest found young consumers feeling "overwhelmed" by the sheer amount of audio they can access, said David Shiffman, the executive vice president of research for the agency. "You want to know why you want to follow something. You want to understand it," he said. "But there's this click-click mentality to always finding the next greatest thing in and around music."
Some advertisers are testing new methods. Honda Motor, a MediaVest client, earlier this month unveiled "Honda Stage,"a YouTube channel that is expected to present original content featuring top bands and musicians. "This is a different play," said Tom Peyton, assistant vice present of advertising and marketing at American Honda. "We want to turn the emotion that comes with music and really infuse our brand with that emotion."
In the past, said Peyton, a marketer like Honda might try to use TV commercials with music in them or sponsor a concert tour to make a similar point. Now, with so many different methods of accessing music available to customers, he said, "consumers all have the expectation that they will be able to connect to their artists in more and different ways. They have an appreciation that a sponsor can help them do that."
The new thinking could spell the end for a technique that has become almost de rigueur for mainstream advertisers. For years now, advertisers have incorporated music from established and up-and-coming artists. One-time counterculture mainstays like The Clash, The Band and Led Zeppelin have allowed their music to be used in ads from Jaguar, Diet Coke and Cadillac, among others. And ads from Apple gave millions of dollars of publicity to a new single from U2 or then-emerging artists like The Fratellis or Feist. No doubt, the Ceasars' "Jerk It Out" would not have been heard as much if it did not appear in a 2005 ad for the iPod Shuffle
If advertisers heed MediaVest's advice, they may stop inserting music into old-school commercials and start finding new ways to transmit it to the audiences they hope will buy their products.