It may seem like a no-brainer, but it turns out that commercials with some form of music involved in them perform better across four key metrics — creativity, empathy, emotive power and information power — than those that don’t feature tunes. And when it comes to driving actual consumer action — i.e., buying things — it turns out that pop songs are king.
A recent study from Nielsen looked at effectiveness of more than 600 television advertisements, more than 500 of which included music. One of the more interesting top-level findings is the fact that it found that music can have a varied effect on different categories — with music being more effective for certain outcomes depending on the genre.
For example, ads with music for consumer packaged goods (CPG) and travel campaigns scored high for empathy and emotive power. Meanwhile, music helped deliver information power for quick-service restaurant and retail campaigns.
“Music is powerful. It can make us smile or cry, bring memories rushing back, and even inspire us to buy a product when it’s combined with the right advertisement,” the firm noted in a breakdown of the results.
It’s the latter reaction of course that brands are looking for in advertising, and Nielsen points out that while music increases ad effectiveness overall, some kinds of music are better than others for influencing actual purchase behaviour. Specifically, pop songs deliver ROI on that front — and a good thing too, considering licensing costs to include current hits.
Nielsen cites a recent Hewlett-Packard (HP) ad that showcased Meghan Trainor's quick rise to fame last autumn. Using her song, “Lips Are Movin’” and the context of the creation of that song’s music video (and Trainor herself), the spot showcased HP tablets. And the outcome was impressive: HP saw a 26% increase from the previous 12-week average in total dollar volume spent, while the ad was airing. This was a considerable lift from the 6.53% increase that HP during the same period in the previous year.
Beyond actual rush-out-and-buy action, Incorporating popular songs — and even artists — into ads as elements of the larger narrative structure can boost a spot’s memorability. And that’s important for brand awareness.
Advertisers can also use the familiarity of a popular song to incite a specific reaction in viewers that aligns with the objective of their ad. Powerful songs can invoke strong emotional responses, and songs can help create a soundtrack to the events unfolding in an ad when lyrics are integrated into the voice over and storyline.
That’s not to say that other types of music don’t provide positive outcomes. Consider jingles and themes: The study found that generic background music helps improve information power. And advertiser jingles help make the brand seem in touch, but they don’t generate as much empathy as other forms of music.
“It depends on the message you want to get across,” said Julanne Schiffer of Nielsen Entertainment. “Popular songs, for example, are the most effective at invoking some kind of emotional response. But, while pop songs deliver emotive power, other genres are better suited for price and promotional-based ads that are trying to get information across to audiences.”