Advertising is the means by which on party attempts to convince or entice another into purchasing a particular product or service. It differs from the sort of one-on-one sales pitch an individual might encounter at the point of sale in that it addresses a larger, more general audience. Advertising therefore differs substantially from persuasive conversation insofar as it relies entirely on mass media and consequently on widespread social meanings rather than personal or idiosyncratic motivations for purchasing.
Historically, advertising was first introduced in print media. Early newspapers were short broadsheets entirely filled with news text; newspaper revenues came only through reader subscription. The advent of newspaper advertising created a dual revenue system in which income was gathered from both subscribers and advertisers. The advertising messages was "piggybacked" on the news stories. Newspapers consequently sold two commodities: to the subscriber, they sold news stories; to the advertiser, they sold access to a market of a certain sort.
With the advent of photography and photolithography, the "illustrated news" broadsheets gave birth to the modern magazine. While retaining a partial news orientation, the magazine fostered reviews, biographical pieces, analytic "features," and photo spreads. More important, technical innovations permitted more sophisticated advertising -- employing eye-catching full-page photographs. Approximately two-thirds of newspaper and magazine revenues are now generated from the advertising. A magazine's primary market has thus shifted from readers to advertisers.
Most publishers openly acknolwedge the changed nature of their products -- the Toronto Globe and Mail, for example, has noted that
The definition of the product of a modern newspaper ... appears to be news information, but in actuality the product is not information that is sold to readers; it is readers who are "sold" to advertisers. ... The industry should be defined as carriers of advertising. This admission notwithstanding, the editorial staff of the Globe and Mail still identifies its function within the journalistic tradition despite the marginal circulation revenues. This sense of allegiance to a readership tends to persist in newspapers whose management is dominated by the editorial staff. In organizations whose management consists predominantly of marketing or accounting staff, the allegiance tends to shift toward accommodating advertisers since it is more clearly understood that advertisers represent the primary source of revenue.
Two decades ago a new type of magazine appeared in which all revenues are received through advertising, the so-called "controlled-circulation magazines." A good example is Homemaker's, which is distributed free in selected urban neighborhoods throughout Canada and targeted at housewives expected to purchase household products such as tableware or detergents. Any articles carried in a controlled-circulation magazine are simply loss leaders intended to propel and convey the advertising. Only to the reader does it appear that the ads accompany the articles. To the publisher, the articles accompany the ads.
For a controlled-circulation magazine, the idea of serving readers is perhaps a misnomer. Gary Zivot, the publisher of Goodlife -- a magazine similar to Homemaker's -- is quite explicit about the function of controlled-circulation publishing: "We're in the business of matching media markets to advertising needs. If I were selling this product to consumers, I wouldn't call it journalism." 
At this point, you might be wondering what has this to do with music? After all, the ads in newspapers or magazines are not accompanied by sound. Music can appear only in mass electronic media. However, if we examine the revenue situation for radio and television, it is clear that they are financially identical to controlled-circulation magazines. With the exception of some public broadcasting and pay-TV, radio and television broadcasting is entirely supported by advertising revenues. It is possible to distinguish the entertainment industry properly understood (the cinema, concert halls, discotheques, or repertory theatres) from commercial radio and television. Like the controlled-circulation magazine, commercial broadcasters are "in the business of matching media markets to advertising needs." Entertainment is not the product, but simply a tool of the trade. The true product of broadcast media is the audience; and the true consumers are the advertisers.
Given the tremendous volume of advertising encountered by consumers, the perennial question is: How effect is broadcast advertising? On a product-by-product basis, this is a difficult question to answer: while most advertisers or their clients keep detailed marketing records concerning the success or failure of specific campaigns, close competition mitigates against publishing statistics concerning the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) or their work. On a global scale, the answer to the question of advertising effectiveness is clearer: the continued viability of commercial radio and television broadcasting is a tacit testament to the overall success of the advertising conveyed. Of course, some advertising campaigns fail to achieve their marketing objectives, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Although there are circumstances where advertisers will effectively gamble on a particular strategy, these are calculated risks, which on average have a positive payoff. Needless to say, advertisers do not support broadcasting as a public service or through corporate goodwill.
For anyone interested in a social understanding of music, the experiences of advertisers are ripe for the plucking. Advertisers not only have practical experience in coaxing out the social meanings of styles, they also have a body of theories (formal and informal) which have been tested on a "subject pool" measured in hundreds of millions and experimental "trials" measured in the billions.
Thus, one must recognize that the field represents a large body of empirically tested heuristics concerning social facets of music. Despite their fallibility, advertisers have considerable practical experience in joining images and music to social and psychological motivations. Ad agencies are, in essence, research institutes for social meanings (although they themselves may not see this as their function). The relationship between advertisers and humanities scholars may be likened to the relationship between industrial and academic scientists. In the commercial setting, nondisclosure is a fact of life, but the products of industrial labors are themselves open for examination. It is useful, then, to meet advertisers on their own ground and to examine their experiences.
Of the estimated sixty billion broadcast advertising hours encountered by North Americans each year, approximately three-quarters employ music in some manner. Music can serve the overall promotional goals in one or more of several capacities. For the purposes of this essay, six basic ways are identified in which music can contribute to an effective broadcast advertisement: 1) entertainment, 2) structure/continuity, 3) memorability, 4) lyrical language, 5) targeting, and 6) authority establishment. The following discussion of these six features is ordered in more or less historical order -- according to their chronological introduction as marketing strategies.
Good music can contribute to the effectiveness of an advertisement merely by making it more attractive. A good ad engages the attention of an audience, and the most straightforward way of achieving this is to fashion an appeal which is entertaining. Historically, the use of music in advertising originated in early vaudeville, where music served to candy coat a spoken narrative sales pitch. Music served to engage listeners' attention and render the advertisement less of an unwanted intrusion.
A common misconception is to equate entertainment with naive or simple hedonistic enjoyment. The etymology of the word "entertain" means to engage the attention, or to draw interest. It is a definition of some merit, for it captures the fact that even superficially repulsive experiences can be suitably entertaining (as producers of horror films can testify).
To the extent that all music broadcast on commercial radio serves as a loss leader -- as a conveyance for the advertising -- any music can potentially act in this role of entertainment. Moreover, the music need not necessarily manifest any special affinity with a particular product or service in order to play an effective and useful function.
Music may also be employed in various structural roles. Perhaps the most important structural role is in tying together a sequence of visual images and/or a series of dramatic episodes, narrative voice-overs, or a list of product appeals. This is the function of continuity.
Historically, the use of music to achieve greater continuity originated in film music -- where one of its functions was to smooth out sequences of discontinuous scene changes or edits. The music is used to mediate between disjoint images. Thus, advertising music can be employed as simply an uninterrrupted background -- what has been dubbed "gravy train."
A second structural function is the use of music to heighten or emphasize dramatic moments or episodes. This is also a major function of music in films. This structural use is evident in a 1983 McDonald's Restaurant radio spot created to introduce the "Sausage McMuffin." (A complete example is given in the Appendix.)
In a matter of just twenty-nine seconds, a dramatic stroy unfolds, complete with setting, characters, dynamic tension, climax, denouement, and coda. No time is wasted; the musical phrases ending at letter E and one measure before letter G are truncated from 4/4 to 3/4 time in order to save precious time. The ad begins with rhythmic strings playing a series of rising concurrent seconds (from letters A to C in the example). The purpose is to heighten the tension up to the climax, where the leading actor declares "Two New Tastes!" -- a point which is reinforced by the entry of the brass instruments and the establishment of a tonal (B-flat) key center.
The unusual opening rhythm might seem somewhat arbitrary:
This single passage nicely illustrates how the composition of advertising music may be constrained by several promotional goals simultaneously.
The use of rhythmic foreshadowing in the "Sausage McMuffin" ad points to a third important function for music: to increase the memorability of a product or the product's name. Consumers are known to favor products which elicit some degree of recognition or familiarity -- even if it is merely the product's name. It is one of the peculiarities of human audition and cognition that music tends to linger in the listener's mind. Surprisingly, such musical lingering may occur even when the mind is an unwilling host. Thus, the association of music with the identity of a certain product may substantially aid product recall. Despite the largely visual orientation of human beings, photographs and visual images do not infect human consciousness to the same extent tht some melodies do. Listeners are sometimes known to display evasive behavior in an effort to prevent being "seeded" by a melody they know will persist mentally long after the actual sound disappears.
The classic "jingle" is the most common musical technique
for aiding memorability and hence product recall.
One of the most famous mnemonic jingles originated in
the 1950s with Pepsodent toothpaste:
This single musical phrase thus 1) establishes a tonality,
2) departs from it, using a lowered seventh degree,
3) shifts to a conventional dominant, and then
4) resolves back to the tonic.
The antagonist ("yellow") and the resolution
("Pepsodent") are thus tightly reflected in the musical setting.
A more contemporary mnemonic jingle is the following example:
The marketing objective of this jingle is to inseminate consumers with a readily remembered telephone number which eliminates the need to look up a home-delivery pizza outlet in the telephone directory. The appeal to the consumer is convenience.
The standard seven-digit North American telephone number has already been established by telephone company psychologists as having the optimum memorability with the greatest number of digits. Moreover, it has been shown that grouping the digits assists recall; and so in North America, the seven-digit telephone number is divided into a group of three digits followed by a group of four. The first group is used to specify the exchange, and in most regions there is little opportunity to change these digits apart from the dictates of the telephone company. Pizza Pizza has chosen the remaining four digits as a string of four "ones" -- a scheme which is, first of all, convenient to dial on rotary-dial telephones.
The sung version of the jingle, however, replaces the last four digits (one-one-one-one) by the lrics "eleven-eleven." Each repetition of the word "eleven" is melodically reinforced by the use of repeated note groups -- both repeated pitch (D#-E-G) and repeated rhythm (eighth-eighth-quarter). Additionally, three of the rhythmically key words "seven, eleven, eleven" -- rhyme, the most ancient of verbal mnemonic techniques. The entire melodic range of the jingle spans less than the interval of a perfect fifth -- a narrow pitch range which facilitates singing. Moreover, with the exception of a single repeated chromatic auxiliary tone, all of the pitches conform to a simple pentatonic scale -- a pitch group generally acknolwedged as a primordial basis for melodies in most cultures.
Even the name of the retail chain, Pizza Pizza, is chosen to enhance memorability. Using the word "pizza" allays any possible confusion concerning the product being sold. The word "pizza" alone would be ruled an illegal business name, but any other word aids little in identification of the product. A simple repetition of the word "pizza" seves the dual function of ensuring a legally distinctive trade name and providing a rhyming word whose meaning reinforces the product description.
Finally, we should note the use of rhythmic syncopation -- a device
which lends both musical interest to a jingle while permitting
a close mimicry of the natural rhythm of the spoken numbers.
It is noteworthy how the same features permeate most jingles
or musical logos:
A fourth technique of musical enhancement is the use of lyrical language. Vocal music permits the conveyance of a verbal message in a nonspoken way. Language utterances can sound much less naive or self-indulgent when couched within a musical phrase rather than simply spoken. An individual can respectably sing things which would sound utterly trite if said.
Agencies exploit this polarity between speech and song by relegating factual information to spoken language and emotional, nonfactual messages to lyrical language. The dichotomy itself goes back to an ancient Greek debate concerning the poetic versus logical conceptions of language -- whether emotive, poetic language is more powerful than factual, logical language. The same polarity is utilized in the operatic contrasts of recitative and aria.
Mixtures of speech and song provide advertisers with opportunities for both logical, factual appeals and emotive, poetic appeals. It is easy to recognize which passages of an ad copy are intended to be spoken and which passages are intended to be sung:
Sung:Both spoken and sung passages share the seminal phrases "CP Air Holidays" and "take you back." In the latter phrase, its appearance in the sung version always employs the first-person pronoun "we," while in the spoken version the third-person "they" is used:
We'll take you back to all the friends and places that you know. We'll take you back, we'll take you to the land of long ago. With CP Air you'll have the journey of a life-time. CP Air Holidays.
Planning a trip to Germany? Plan with CP Air Holidays. They offer low fares and a choice of three charter-flight destinations: Duuml;sseldorf, Frankfurt, or Munich. You'll fly closer to where you want to go, with traditional CP Air service all the way. Ask your travel agent about CP Air Holidays charter flights to Germany. They'll take you back.
With CP Air you'll have the journey of a life-time. CP Air Holidays. We'll take you back.
This subjective/objective pronoun use is typical in advertising copy which employs mixed sung/spoken material. It serves the function of portraying corporate identity in poetic terms while portraying factual information in objective, third-person terms.
Sung: We'll take you back . . . Spoken: They'll take you back . . .
In general, national brand advertisers tend to favor poetic appeals over logical appeals, since specific logical, factual distinctions between competing products often tend to be weak. Minor product differences may often be amplified through the use of music. Also, musical lyrics (as opposed to a straight narrative pitch) are useful as an authoritative frame. Statements which are sung elicit less critical reflection than spoken statements. Indeed, this distinction is reflected in courts of law, which are much less apt to find sung statements slanderous than their spoken counterparts.
Many of the people who encounter a particular ad are simply in the wrong game: most people are not in the market for diapers, men do not generally purchase women's shoes, and children have little interest in office furniture. A large portion of an advertising budget will be wasted through misdirected messages. Consequently, advertisers are interested in media whose demographic characteristics more nearly match the market segment sought. The choice of media and broadcast scheduling can be used to focus more selectively on a particular group or class of potential consumers. This focusing in on a particular audience is called "targeting."
The importance of targeting is dependent upon the product itself. Very specialized products, such as surgical instruments, will necessitate heavy targeting: it is more sensible to advertise in medical journals than on national television -- although this does not mean that surgeons do not watch television. Shampoo, by contrast, is a typical product which does not (usually) require heavy targeting; most people are purchasers of it. But it is not generally advertised in medical journals even though doctors are consumers of shampoo. The most suitable targeting strategy, then, is one which optimizes access to the largest market segment, balanced against the incurred cost of the medium. Frequently, a mixed strategy which involves the coordination of several media may be optimum.
Once an appropriate medium is chosen, a second consideration of targeting is to engage or captivate those viewers who constitute the target demographic group. Musical styles have long been identified with various social and demographic groups. Musical style might therefore assist in targeting a specific market. The style may function as a socioeconomic identifier -- a device for addressing a specific audience.
But to what extent are musical styles truly able to engage a particular demographic group? As an academic issue, this problem has engaged numerous scholars, particularly in the field of popular music. Advertising offers an empirical testing ground in which intuitive notions can and have been explored.
Havey Krotz's Ford in Listowel, Ontario, is a large, successful rural automobile dealership which, because of its remote geographical location, relies heavily on mass media advertising. The musical style of most of Krotz's radio and television spots can be characterized as country and western. One might be inclined to dismiss the use of C&W as merely a ploy to please the musical tastes of Mr. Krotz -- that the ad people are designing their commercials to appease the client rather than to appeal to the consumer. But this explanation is too cynical. The Ford Motor Company's own marketing research indicates that pickup truck buyers are proportionally more likely to like C&W music than the population as a whole.
Three sorts of causal relations are logically tenable. Either pickup trucks cause owners or aspiring owners to like C&W; or C&W causes aficionados to desire pickup trucks; or (most likely) the taste for pickup trucks and C&W are both caused by some third, unspecified value or interrelated cluster of values. Examining advertising information, like scientific empiricism generally, only establishes correlations -- causal relations can only be inferred.
But establishing rigorous causal links is unnecessary. A pragmatic correlative understanding is sufficient. The highly competitive environment of advertising strategies ferrets out those targeting strategies which are less optimal. It follows that an observer can learn about social meanings in music simply by examining the advertising strategy. Radio and television advertisements are the most overt records joining life-style, social class, and material aspirations to musical style. They are, consequently, useful tools for unraveling musical meanings in a social and cultural context.
Although in some cases the presentation of simple factual information is sufficient to sell a product, in many other cases factual advantages over rival products are in themselves insufficient to win the allegiance of new consumers. In such circumstances advertisers will avoid factual appears and rely on style or image management. This is particularly important in the case of so-called "partiy products" -- that is, competing products which are marginally different. Classic examples of parity products are Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. These marginally different products compete very closely, for the most part avoiding factual logical claims and relying on image management. The objective is to portray a particular style or image which elicits strong consumer allegiances but which is also broadly based. It is comparatively easy to create a minority "cult" product, but this results in a small or transient market. In general, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the size of a demographic group and the strength with which it holds certain convictons. The taks facing cola advertisers is to optimize the size of the attracted market with the strength of possible product allegiance.
Closely related to the targeting function is the use of music to enhance an ad's credibility, to establish its authority. Indeed, it may be the case that effective targeting is merely the result of proper authority establishment. A simple way of establishing authority is through expert testimony (such as race-car driver Jackie Stewart advocating Ford motor cars) or expert endorsement (such as Crest toothpaste's approval by the American Dental Association). Authority may also be fostered through testimonials of non-technical authorities -- notably by testimonials of celebrities who have no specific expertise with respect to the product. Despite their lack of product-specific expertise, however, celebrities will have a distinctive demeanor, style, or air which may lend weight or credence to the testimonial.
In addition to credence established by personal authority, advertisers may employ actors and actresses on the basis of group authority, the most important groups being those associated with race, sex, age, and social class or status. Since differences in musical taste have close correspondences to such groups, musical style may be used as a very effective nonverbal identifier.
To the extent that advertising succeeds in enticing an audience, the advertising must have some genuine appeal. A successful advertisement is able to strike some meaningful chord -- something the listener values. The product itself rarely carries sufficient appeal alone, so advertisers will endeavor to link or join the product to some cultural value which stirs more profound allegiances. Bathroom tissue, for example, does not conjure up deep allegiances or emotions except for Western travelers in developing countries. The cuteness of fluffy kittens, however, does manage to elicit more fundamental attractions -- and so such associations are created by advertisers to sell bathroom tissue.
At one time or another all of the most esteemed values of a society have been tapped by advertisers in order to assist in product sales. These values include, among others: nationalism international brotherhood, religion, family, nostalgia, friendship, motherhood, fatherhood, health, beauty, youth, adventure, elegance, mystique, humor, economy, quality, security, love, sex, and, most important, style. It is arguably style which holds the greatest unconscious sway, and music is arguably the greatest tool advertisers have for portraying and distinguishing various styles.
It is mistaken to assume that consumers passively receive advertising messages. Over periods of time, consumers become sensitive to the means by which advertisers establish authority. As viewers become more cognizant of the means of appeal, advertisers are forced to seek new techniques to overcome viewer skepticism. The meanings of advertisements are necessarily linked dynamically to particular times and the past experience of viewers. There results a kind of escalation or inflation -- what might be called an "authority spiral."
This phenomenon can be traced in the history of detergent advertising. Early laundry detergent ads used celebrity testimonials until viewers decided the credence of celebrities concerning matters of laundry was questionable. Advertisers switched to actresses palying the roles of housewives. When this ploy had outlived its usefulness detergent advertisers switched strategies to make use of testimonials involving real consumers. Some viewers may believe these individuals are actresses, but broadcasting laws forbid this kind of deception. Nevertheless, the real-life testimonials are carefully screened to heighten the believability of these testimonials and so increase their authoritativeness. Although modern detergent advertisements appear to be the apex of amateurism, they are more meticulously crafted than ever. Advertisers strive for the sort of "cultivated amateurism" associated with some aspects of Punk and New Wave esthetics. Amateurism itself is exploited as a means of gaining authority or appearing to be genuine.
This cultivated, severe matter-of-factness is evident in advertisements such as Mike Connor's (of Mannix fame) testimony for American Express. This ad makes a straightforward celebrity appeal where the actor appears seated alone in a restaurant. A single camera is used; there is no narration, camera motion, editing, or music. The scene of the ad is contrived to project an "uncontrived" setting; it conscientiously strives to achieve the feel of "on-location." The very absence of music is used to convey authority.
Musical authority can be established most readily through quotation, allusion, or plagiarism. The history of advertising is replete with examples of plagiarism. "Old Tyme Syrup," for example, is a synthetic maple syrup substitute. As if to mask its own lack of history, the advertisements emphasize old family values:
Gimme that Old Type Syrup, with the Old Tyme maple flavorThe music is plagiarized from the popular revial song, "Gimme That Old Time Religion." The initial lyrical phrase, "Gimme That Old Time ...," is preserved in the replacement lyrics, but in the latter part of the second line the lyrics depart from the original music. The new line, "It's the only one for me," has replaced "it's good enough for me." The original line is ironically more appropriate, since the advertised product is a cheaper substitute for the more expensive real maple syrup. Whether or not the allusion is intentional on the part of the advertiser is a matter of conjecture.
Gimme that Old Tyme Syrup, it's the only one for me.
It's the only one for pancakes, it's the only one for waffles;
Gimme that Old Tyme Syrup, it's the only one for me.
One of the most significant musical developments in advertising in the 1980s has been the advent of music videos. The origin and purpose of music videos is promotional; they are themselves advertisements. If follows that a good music video, according to the conception of the industry, will share all of the features which distinguish a good advertisement. Using our six-point check list, it should be 1) entertaining, 2) structured, 3) memorable, 4) effectively lyrical, 5) properly targeted to a specific audience, and 6) authoritative.
This is even more true of music broadcast without pictures -- musical "audios." Broadcast music has always been its own promotion. The early controversies concerning radio "payola" had their origins in the fact that records were not only self-promoting but could also be used to promote other products. Modern radio is, in essence, a promotion (the advertising) piggy-backed on a promotion (the recorded music) under the guise of pure entertainment. The videos are entertaining, of course, but entertainment is no longer the goal; it is a tool. With the current debate concerning whether boradcasters should pay for the use of music videos, an old argument is merely being resurrected in a new form. That many broadcasters insert standard advertisements into the music video format indicates the power of music videos not only to promote themselves but to sustain sufficient viewer interest that other products can be promoted between successive music advertisements.
What distinguishes music from traditional advertising is that advertising maintains a distinction between the ad itself and the service or artifact to be purchased. Consuming the ad is not identical to consuming the product. In music, however, this is not the case. The product and the advertisement are one and the same -- they are inextricably intertwined. A musical work can be regarded as self-advocating; a work sells itself. The same techniques of social targeting, memorability, and establishment of authory are just as crucial as they are in advertising -- although musicians are perhaps less overtly aware of these objectives.
Indeed, top-forty production practices as well as the advent of music videos reflect a growing entanglement of music and promotion -- of values and marketing. The so-called musical "hook" is just a species of jingle, oriented toward the achievement of the same purpose: increasing memorability and product recall. Through quotation, allusion, or plagiarism, musical gestures such as riffs, instrumental timbres, rhythms, and so forth are used both to target audiences and to establish msuical authority through an established network of historical connotations. Any musician who imitates or borrows aspects of an early musician's work (such as Jimi Hendrix) is, at least in part, appropriating the presumed or established authority of the earlier musician.
In other words, the musical advertisement may well be viewed as a paradigm for all musical works, whatever their origin. Thus we might ask our six seminal questions of any musical work: 1) On what basis is it entertaining or engaging? 2) How is it structured and what role(s) does this structure serve? 3) How does the music achieve memorability? 4) How does the use of language contribute to its poetic or emotive appeal? 5) At whom is this music aimed? and 6) How does the music establish its credibility or authority?
However one measures good music, it must be acknowledged that, on a second-for-second basis, advertising music is perhaps the most meticulously crafted and most fretted-about music in history. Nationally produced television advertisements in particular may be considered among the most highly polished cultural artifacts ever created. But it is the overt knowledge of objectives and the consequent desire to control and handle the tools of musical meaning which make advertising such a compelling object of musical study.
 Globe and Mail Op-ed article, July 28, 1983; as quoted in Mark Czarnecki "Readers for Sale" This Magazine, XVIII/3 (Aug., 1984), p. 11.
 Mark Czarnecki, ibid., p.13.
 The performance setting of the original fifties spots is accompanied by offbeat finger snapping and beatniklike interjections, e.g., "Yeah!"