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Whether they’re on social media, television or radio, music, when used correctly, can often be what stands out the most.

But, how did we get here?

The history of music in advertising

We’ve got to the rewind to the 1920s, the start of our journey, a time of Jazz music, stylish suits, top hats and the birth of commercial radio. Radio stations began to broadcast news announcements, music and some adverts. Music became a popular outlet for most artists and the radio allowed people all over the country to listen to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby.

The 1950s saw the post-war rise, this decade saw some of the biggest advancements in music, advertising and technology. This included the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the introduction of music charts. Artists like Little Richard, Chuck Berry and, of course, Elvis Presley changed music and culture forever. Advertising was often broadcast on the radio and the fact that they were everywhere (in houses, in cars, in shops and on street corners) meant plenty of people were listening.

The 60s saw the music industry really take off and new genres emerge. The Beatles revolutionised popular music and become one of the biggest bands of all time. The Rolling Stones also pioneered a new style of music and sub-culture. Music of this era became an anthem for many due to civil unrest and war protests that brought people together, demonstrating the effect music can have on our emotions and the potential this holds for advertising. The 60s saw the emergence of Soul, Rhythm & Blues and Folk Music and within these genres were key artists like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding.

The 80s saw the launch of MTV and gave birth to music television. You could watch your favourite band perform live or in a video, meaning they appeared in your home and had a bigger platform on which to promote themselves.

Music, technology and advertising today

Jump to now and we have social media networks, online calling, music streaming services and more space in our homes because everything can be done though one piece of technology. A musician who is not well known can now generate a buzz through channels such as YouTube or Twitter and this can then kick-start their career in the music industry. One great example of this is illustrated below, whereby a band has created a social buzz through an innovative video which has gone on to successfully promote them and their music. This suggests that not only can music make the advertising but advertising, in all its forms, can equally make the music.

Advertising has seen a shift and change throughout the years, which has been directly impacted by technology, music and culture and this has allowed us to become even more creative and produce content just as famous as the music and musicians themselves. We’ve been able to hit audiences with humour, as with the Cadbury Gorilla, or in John Lewis’ case, create an advert that is thought-provoking and taps into key emotions. Music in these ads are covers of old songs, sung by an emerging artist. John Lewis adverts have been so popular that the music alone has generated engagement and the music used in its 2012 advert hit number one in the UK chart.


Another key technology in music and advertising is music identification software. The most common is the app Shazam. Simply pull out your phone, launch the app and within 30 seconds it’ll tell you what the song is, who the artist is, where you can buy it and it even takes you to the artist’s page. This has been of huge benefit to the listener and the artist, so much so, we can now track the most popular ads based on how many times they have been “Shazamed”. This is evident in The Drum’s, now regular, feature – The Shazam chart.

As time has gone on, music has changed, listening preferences have changed and sometimes great music can be forgotten or lost in the past. If an advert featured a song from the 1950s you may not always know immediately what it is, but with this software you are one click away from finding out. Mobile network Three used a Fleetwood Mac song in its 2013 TV advert and it was so popular that the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart 26 years after its original release.

Music has always had a personal element. It’s something we use as an addition to our day-to-day lives and activities and can impact on our mood. Gym goers typically listen to music that would get you hyped and when relaxing you’d listen to something calming, with a slow tempo. While our mood can affect the music we choose to listen to, the music we listen to can also affect our mood and, as advertisers, this is a highly effective and well-utilised tool.

Where are we now?

We’ve come a long way since the 1920s and music, technology and advertising have seen huge change, often in relation to one another. We can plan ahead, we can decide where the ad will be placed and we can even create long or short campaigns. We can provide opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work and provide the platform that could start their dream career; something that was not so easily possible 20 years ago.

These evolutionary changes have allowed us to become better messengers, utilising a mix of music, culture, image and product. After all, what is more satisfying than knowing that, somewhere, your ad is being shared, invoking an emotional reaction and, ultimately, helping them remember your brand, so that they turn those emotions into a purchase.

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