Audio is a powerful storytelling tool because it focuses in on just one of our senses. Using sound correctly can recreate an experience for listeners, making them feel like a part of the story. In advertising, sound captures the listener’s attention and draws them into the ad, instead of our default feeling to be annoyed by advertising. This can be done through using audio to create a recognizable mood that listeners associate with a brand, as in my first example. Audio can also be done through a clever voice-over, as in my second example. But stand-alone audio must always drive home a clear message since there are no other cues for listeners, and I also give an example of what happens when audio doesn’t drive home a clear message.
Natural sound can be a great way to pull viewers and listeners into an ad. Whenever I think of natural sound in advertising, I always think of the Corona commercials. They always begin with the same sound- waves crashing on a beach. Throughout their commercials they include other beach-y sounds like a beach ball being hit, a beer being cracked open, ice hitting a bucket, etc. By using these beach sounds to create a relaxed feeling in their commercials, they have associated their brand with these organic beach sounds which is a great marketing technique. Here is an example of one of their ads:
Another audio technique is voice over. This technique is not something that is necessary for every commercial or story, but can be a useful device to further along a plot line. My favorite example, and a Radio Mercury Award-winning one to boot, are the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials. The voice over is very cleverly written, you want to listen to it and are excited when one of those commercials pops up because it is so funny. Here is an example of one of their TV commercials:
Finally, I wanted to do an example of audio that does not quite fully convey the message that an advertiser wanted to send. The new Star Wars-themed Volkswagon commercials, as fun and irreverent as they may be, would not be effective as standalone audio. Here is an example:
Seeing this commercial, I would be amused, sure! Dogs barking are cute, and Star Wars is always awesome, so the combination is enough to get the video spreading virally. But if this audio played as a pop-under ad featuring a new Volkswagen car, I would be confused as to what the audio was trying to convey. Are the new VW cars Star Wars-themed? Does Star Wars endorse them? What about the dogs? Are they just cute or are Volkswagons especially dog-friendly? As a listener, I don’t quite know the answers to these questions from the barking audio alone, so this commercial is best left to its video form.
So there you have it, some insights into using audio to capture attention: create a mood, be clever, but always stay on message!
Here is my pop-under audio advertisement for ultimate frisbee: