Monday, 31 January 2011

Audio branding

Today we heard the sad news that John Barry has died. But what a legacy he leaves. His music has the masterly genius to create a melody and evoke a mood in the space of 10 seconds. Listen to the opening bars of Born Free before Matt Monroe even comes in with his honeydew voice, and you are already transported to the wilds of Kenya and Elsa gambolling with the beautiful Virginia McKenna.

Perhaps the most impressive body of work, from a branding perspective, is for the Bond movies. I'm not sure Bond, James Bond, would ever have been so suave, confident and classy without the richness of Barry's work. His connection with Mr Bond started when he arranged Monty Norman's score for the first ever 007 film, Dr No. From there he went on to create theme tunes that wove in the Bond DNA melodically, memorably and with the ability to evoke excitement, instantly. The 007 brand is indeed multi-sensory.

Audio branding has a bit of a motley reputation in the commercial world. Jingles are often rather poo-pood - but can be enormously powerful. Who can forget 'Shake & Vac and put the freshness back', 'a finger of Fudge is just enough' and more recently the uniquley annoying 'Go Compare'.

The purity of the sounds developed for Direct Line and Intel are not jingles, but clever signals that underscore every ad. Their cleverness is belied by their simplicity. These are sonic bites.

Great music does sometimes lift a TV commercial from good to great. The marvellous Lurpak ad by Weiden & Kennedy is greatly enhanced by the use of Canis Lupus from Fantastic Mr Fox by Alexandre Desplat. Fyfe Dangerfield's cover of the Billy Joel song 'She's always a Woman' gave the 2010 John Lewis ad an emotional edge that the imagery would never have reached alone (or more to the point with a less brilliant choice of music).

We're sorry to say farewell to John Barry. His swirling sounds will continue to stir high emotions for years to come.