In-depth: Have ads lost their musical touch in the fast-paced digital world?

Once crazy for full-fledged anthems, brands today launch musical ads just for the sake of it in the market. Earlier considered the tools for creating a legacy, the role of music in the ads today is short-lived. Industry experts discuss whether digital constraints are leaving little scope for elaborate jingles to play out or brands have done away with the fad too soon

Akanksha Nagar
New Update
In-depth: Have ads lost their musical touch in the fast-paced digital world?

Brand anthems for decades were the champions of advertising.  Anthems helped brands become synonymous with the category and etched the brand names in the minds of consumers for years. Most audiences today would recognise the anthems created decades ago -from ‘Sabki Pasand Nirma’, ‘Amul Doodh Peeta Hai India’ to ‘Humara Bajaj’.

In stark contrast to this, we might not be able to remember anthems which were created and successfully got stuck in the minds of the public in the recent past. Although brands do create and experiment with sonic branding like Hyundai’s Haq Hai Humara or Dettol’s # Mil ke Harayenge but their impact is nothing when compared to the branded anthems created a decade or two earlier.

Is it the lack of attention span of consumers, the audience being spoilt for choices or brands inability to produce anthems that cut across audience groups?

“It definitely is a sad reality that nothing memorable is getting created today. An anthem or brand song used to go beyond the so-called 30 seconds the company used to pay for,” said Soumitra Karnik - Independent Creative Consultant.

Iconic songs like ‘Hamara Bajaj’, ‘Jab main chota bachcha tha’, or Pepsi’s ‘Umad-Ghumad ke’ used to be sung as much as, if not more, than any popular film song.

Hamara Bajaj (1989):

‘Roshan Hota Bajaj’

‘Dil Maange More’ for Pepsi:

Let’s just say a good brand anthem is like a nice perfume. It stays for hours and easily sticks to your memory.

Soumitra Karnik

Karnik said that the reason such an important thing as a brand signature, a formula which has proven to be successful many times over, is missing today is not because nowadays people lack attention but because people handling brands lack direction.

“Quick in-and-out format suits the digital advertising or at least that’s what the platform owners have made the advertisers believe. Just like the in-and-out ad format, even the brand managers have become in-and-out, no one really cares about longevity, and it suits everyone’s purpose to show quick, temporary success at least expenditure,” he added.

Ramesh Narayan

Ramesh Narayan, Founder of Canco Advertising, believes this is because music as a genre has changed radically over the years. Lyrics and melody were fused to create magic of the kind we knew and loved.

Whether it was for Bajaj or Cadbury or ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ the creative teams behind them included modern-day legends like Shankar Mahadevan, Louis Banks and even AR Rehman. That was an era in which, whether it was Bollywood or Advertising, music sparkled. Somehow, Bollywood which was heavily reliant on music in the past has also lost its magic and so has advertising, he said.

“The new tastes of the millennials, the quicker pace, the leaning towards rap and beat than lyrics and melody. I'm not saying present day advertising is not effective. It is just different,” he added.

With advertising shifting from mainstream to digital and social mediums, users are preferring to consume content and ads as they deem fit.

Anand Krishnan

“When was the last time we saw an ad unmuted or without skipping? Brands had to work within the constraints of the three-second 'thumb rule', leaving little scope for elaborate jingles to play out,” said Anand Krishnan - Founder, Partner - Sunny Side Up.

He said that the reason we don't hear memorable tunes even on TV is because brands need to stay consistent across mediums. Digital is not an extension or adaptation anymore, but the primary medium that's driving brand communication across other channels such as TV and Radio.

There have been a few brands that have created anthems in recent times – Dettol and Puma but only few have been as memorable as the old ones.

Nisha Sampath

Nisha Sampath, Managing Partner, Bright Angles Consulting, said that creating an anthem also requires a very different approach as compared to regular marketing communication. There is a different resource pool – a composer, a singer, an agency who understand the power of music and sound.

“It requires greater patience, more time, and perhaps it will take many brand owners out of their conventional comfort zone. When it comes to evaluating appeal and brand fit, what is the benchmark to evaluate an anthem?  How can one assess if it will work or not, after all the investment that it takes? Comparatively, everyone feels confident to assess a TV script. But it would be quite hard to give feedback on a brand anthem. Let alone brand anthems, I feel that brands do not use enough sonic branding and sound mnemonics per se. Perhaps, more client exposure will help in opening them up to use such devices,” she said.

She feels that the entire digital space is skewed towards discovery of new content, which pulls us away faster from the old stuff.

Research tells us that the length of songs released by commercial artists has grown shorter over time – probably due to shorter attention spans. When popular music cannot hold the attention of the audience there is an even lesser chance that a brand anthem will.

Nisha Singhania

Nisha Singhania, Co-founder and Director of Infectious Advertising, however, disagrees with the notion that brands don’t create anthems today that can catch everyone’s attention or aren’t memorable enough.

The agency did ‘The Chak Chak Chabao’ campaign for Tasty Treat which used rapper Kaam Bhaari and it became really popular among the youth.

‘The Chak Chak Chabao Rap’:

Although, she agreed that today’s generation is getting entertainment from YouTube and Instagram reels - for them advertising is often an interruption. They are spoilt for choice and content has a very short shelf life. Everyday there is something new trending - hence it becomes difficult for anything to become ‘iconic’.

Earlier advertising was one of the few available forms of entertainment and everybody latched on to it.

Rajesh Ramaswamy

Rajesh Ramaswamy (Ramsam), Founder, The Script Room, agreed that the way we consume advertising and the communication content which needs to be shared today are very different. Earlier usually there was a single TV channel and everybody used to watch the same thing on repeat mode. Advertising was mostly consumed through either radio or TV. But today everyone is watching different content on multiple platforms and advertising today is much more targeted.

Jingles by and large get popular only when one hears it on repeat and there is a pattern to it which simply appeals to the masses. All those old jingles and anthems had the same format for many years that the audience became familiar with.

So, what can advertisers do today to create famous and hum-worthy brand anthems?

Brand anthems create a memory effect and build an affinity, if they do not impact direct sales.

But not only are the communication channels different today, the products and services too are different.

All famous anthems created earlier belonged to well established brands. Today, Ramsam said that the biggest advertisers are usually the new products and services like applications. It is very rare for them to pick up jingles to communicate because the nature of communication and the piece of information that needs to go out are very different. Today it is more about usage and functionality of the brand and not its image.

However, he agreed that audience today are open to the idea of an anthem- if it is carefully crafted.

He suggested that if brands adopt this way of communication, it should be a far more organic and evolved process. There has to be enough room for creativity.

Music serves as a branding device and can build recall - in fact sonic branding helps do just that. Singhania added that one doesn’t have to rely on a jingle for that.

Brand anthems have been relegated to the nostalgia folder in our lives. But it still evokes fond memories and associations.

Krishnan shared that sonic branding is as important as visual branding, if not more. Simply because there's one other sensory organ involved. Sonic branding will play an important role in the coming decade as voice-led marketing becomes the next big channel for brand marketers.

Blame it on mobiles replacing remotes or shorter attention spans, advertisers and marketers must consider creating work that leaves behind a strong legacy, he said- one that years later would bring out the pride and nostalgia associated with it.

In-depth Have ads lost their musical touch in the fast-paced digital world