Not Your Parents’ Jingles: 5 Ad Soundtracks Making Waves In 2021

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What makes for a great commercial? The mission they’re designed to accomplish – interrupting people in the middle of content they’re enjoying to make them want to spend money on your product or service – isn’t an easy one, and there are a lot of different ways to try and make that memorable impression in such a short amount of time. Whether you want your message to come off as funny, emotional, or maybe even just annoying enough to stick in someone’s head, music is one of the most powerful tools in any advertiser’s arsenal. 

So, while we can’t authoritatively answer the question of what constitutes the perfect commercial, we can definitely answer the question of what goes into the perfect music choice. Let’s learn by example and look at some ads from this past year that go above and beyond thanks to the right soundtrack, each in their own unique way.

Apple – “Fumble”

It’s literally almost impossible to overstate how masterful Apple’s use of music in their ads has been ever since Apple started running ads. The iPod silhouette commercials center purely around music, and will live on in fame probably forever. The truth is that you could comb through Apple spots on YouTube and learn something different from each one, but we picked this one because it gives some unorthodox insights.

The message of the ad is pretty simple: iPhone 12’s are durable. This crazy soundtrack full of rapid-fire mouth noises and odd percussion drives that point right home by synching up to the physical action, turning an exaggerated slapstick sequence into a well-punctuated technological drama that we can all relate to. Plus, it’s so left-field and mildly irritating without quite being actually irritating that it’s almost impossible to forget.

Linkedin – “Let’s Step Forward, Together”

Notice anything missing from this one? How about any audible spoken dialogue whatsoever? There’s a pretty heavy subject matter at hand here revolving around the pandemic, but the commercial is all about the inspirational feeling of regrowth in the wake of that turmoil. Sort of like a plant being watered back to life, for instance.

Musically, this one reads almost like a film soundtrack. This is a super narrative driven ad, and it’s almost entirely up to the music to set the emotional tone the viewer is supposed to feel. It could play a lot of different ways – try muting the audio and swapping out some soundtracks of your own to see for yourself – but this upbeat, rocky tune by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach ensures that you feel uplifted by what you’re watching. Surprisingly powerful stuff.

Oatly – “Wow No Cow”

Alright, this one’s a little bit polarizing; but, quite frankly, we love it. One YouTube commenter puts it best: “It’s so f–ing horrible, but it’s honestly the only commercial I remember”. We’d argue that it’s actually a beautiful instance of catchy pop simplicity, if not earworm-ism at it’s finest, but point taken.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a fantastic lesson on music taking center-stage in an effective ad with little to no visible budget. Other than the price of the Super Bowl slot itself, of course. It’s fun, it’s light-hearted, it’s catchy, and regardless of what the haters have to say, Oatly CEO Toni Petersson can hold a tune just fine. Yes, the song is on Spotify if you’re wondering. We checked.

Adidas – “End Plastic Waste”

Let’s take a step back from commercials where the soundtrack is the centerpiece, and look at how it can play an important supporting role. The cerebral sounding orchestral music isn’t the focus of this Adidas spot. All of the information we’re getting about the product and the environmental initiative is coming from Kermit’s (masterful) voiceover and the variety of lifestyle and nature shots flashing across the screen.

And yet, this ad would feel like a dud if there was just a backdrop of silence framing these things. There’s not necessarily any kind of direct relationship between what the commercial is about and the orchestration sitting underneath it, but somehow they synergize perfectly to make the whole thing feel a little more grandiose and wistful. You can do the same thing for your own ads, all it really takes is a discerning ear.

Grubhub – “Delivery Dance”

This one is all about color, both in terms of audio and visual, and pumps in a bit more of a modern feeling sound than the ads we’ve talked about up to this point. The commercial itself isn’t really about anything, per se. GrubHub isn’t trying to inform you about the details of their service, why they should be your food delivery app of choice, how much anything costs, etc., etc. What it really boils down to is one of the few lines of voiceover in the spot: “The kind of deals that make you boogie”.

And, sure enough, that’s the singular vibe this ad is beaming into your brain via your screen of choice. Enthusiastically dancing, brightly colored cartoon characters breaking it down to an equally colorful, bombastic beat with some understated vocal elements create a feeling of movement. If all goes to plan, your thumbs will be boogying their way to your phone to download GrubHub.

This commercial may have its detractors, but there’s a lot to be said about the virtues of an ad that exists purely to impart a strong vibe and feeling attached to a certain brand. You’d be pretty hard pressed to do that without music.

Yes, commercials can be a nuisance sometimes (can’t I just watch The Masked Singer in peace?), but if you take the time to pick them apart a little bit, you’ll notice some genuinely interesting audiovisual art taking place. When done right, music in advertisements can stand toe-to-toe with the impactfulness of a film or TV score, and it sure as hell goes a long way in leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

What about you? Are you in the business of selling a service or thing? If so, we’d love a free sample. But, also, we’d love to help! You don’t need Madison Avenue ad agencies or Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys to make your own ads sound amazing. Jambox offers an enormous variety of royalty-free music that can match any of the moods, vibes, or feelings we just talked about here and more.

Except for “Wow No Cow”. Nobody can match “Wow No Cow”.

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