Music And Advertising During the Pandemic : The Major Trends

  • Author : Music Rights Clearance
  • synch trends
  • ads and music
  • pandemic and music in ads

“The pandemic has prompted advertising agencies to use music to deliver emotionally charged and meaningful messages,” explains Vanessa Hauguel, General Manager of Montreal-based company Music Rights Clearance (MRC). She is also finishing a master’s degree that hones in on the use of music in advertising.

She and her colleagues are in a prime position to identify the music trends that have defined TV and online ads over the past 12 months. Every day, MRC finds titles and clears rights for major brands and advertising agencies, both in Canada and around the world.

This article outlines key trends as well as comments made by Jayne Costello of Concord Music Publishing, Xavier Debreuille of Musicor and Florent Clavel of Third Side Music.

Spring 2020: support and empathy (“first wave”)

“The first wave carried a message of hope and tenderness. We also saw it in the political realm, with an approach to communications that was intended to reassure,” explains Vanessa Hauguel.

“In 2020, many brands opted for the piano.
To soothe, but perhaps also because we were at a loss for words.”

A slew of easily recognizable crowd-pleasers then followed. “A year ago, lyrics took on a deeper meaning. They carried a message of solidarity and collective support.” Her team most notably licensed the song “Stand By Me” for Mazda (Wunderman Thompson agency), as a version performed by singer Skylar Grey. When the night has come, and the way is dark / And that moon is the only light you see / No I won’t be afraid / Just as long as the people come and stand by me.

Summer 2020: A move towards the light (“second wave”)

“A few months later, advertisers felt that people were yearning to move on to other things: we desperately wanted to awaken from our slumber!” posits Vanessa Hauguel. Advertisers’ watchwords were simplicity and hope. “It’s always a challenge to forecast the state of mind people will find themselves in two months down the road, at the time of an ad’s broadcast. Musical supervision is also the art of recognizing and being sensitive to the prevailing social climate.”

Attractive options for advertisers

In this regard, she mentions the title The Middle, featured in an IKEA ad (Rethink agency). Originally by Jimmy Eat World and covered here by Freedom Fry. “A bit like with Stand By Me, a more recent artist recaptures a classic title. It’s nostalgia with a certain youthful allure. An iconic and comforting title that pulls at everyone’s heartstrings. Revisited by a different artist, it gives a singular tone to the commercial. And for the advertiser, it’s often a more affordable option than the original title.”

“Advertisers and brands also highlighted the new rituals
related to confinement,” explains Vanessa Hauguel.

She points to this Hyundai ad (Innocean agency), which made use of the more festive title Drinkee by Sofi Tukker to entertain its audience, by showcasing remote work and videoconferencing in the best possible light.

A return to dreaming and other aspirational delights

While commercials and music mostly took a humble and sober approach during the 2020 holiday season, humour and fantasy kicked off 2021. “It was once again allowed to aspire to more and have a little fun, while striking the right tone. The task of finding titles that were in keeping with this trend proved to be a fascinating exercise,” says Vanessa Hauguel.

Spring 2021: The adjustment (“third wave”)

“The past few months have seen a return to a more carefree, lighter atmosphere. It is now possible to speak about post-pandemic life and to dream, with a certain amount of caution,” remarks Vanessa Hauguel, who has played an active role in Canada’s music sector for the past 15 years.

She believes that old hits remain a sure-fire bet, as are musical nods, for instance through the use of a one-hit wonder. “The ‘70s, ‘80s and increasingly the ‘90s are very popular,” she says, offering up two recent cases in point: the title I Miss You Like Crazy by The Moffatts for a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial (Rethink agency) and Informer by Snow for the Nesto advertisement (Cossette agency).

Inclusion and commitment

According to Vanessa Hauguel, publishers and rights holders recognize that, given how music advertising is attuned to trends, social concerns positively dictate many decisions:

“Agencies want to hear from more women and socially conscious artists,
who weave in messages that are in keeping with current issues.”

When a title is worth 1,000 words

“Examples where a song’s lyrics directly support the concept of the ad’s message also aren’t hard to come by,” she notes. “It’s a profitable strategy because the agency pays for a title that perfectly matches the message’s visual content, in addition to offering a second layer of meaning, thus optimizing its attention-grabbing, retention-rate potential.”

She points to You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore for Kraft Dinner (Rethink agency) and In Dreams by Roy Orbison in this moving joint commercial for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and Toronto’s SickKids Hospital (No Fixed Address agency).

Quebec: an increased demand for French-language titles

Vanessa Hauguel and other key industry players have noticed a growing demand on the part of agencies for French-language songs, as a way to better reach the Quebec market. “Agencies won’t change the visuals for their commercials, but will instead take full advantage of the soundtrack to directly reach the hearts and minds of its target audience, without having to reinvest in a completely new ad. She cites Passer à l’ouest by Dumas for Kruger products (Broken Heart Love Affair agency), whereas the English-language ad features the title Human by Rag’n’Bone Man. Other examples include Je veux tout by Ariane Moffatt for a Thanksgiving commercial by Provigo, and De la Terre jusqu’au courant by Les Soeurs Boulay for Ikea.

Significant income for artists in pandemic times

Music Rights Clearance’s General Manager also wishes to emphasize the following:

“It’s always good news for Canadian artists to earn income
during this period that has particularly affected them.”

Sample of advertising achievements

Operating on multiple continents, Music Rights Clearance’s Montreal team invites you to watch the following 3-minute montage of its advertisements, highlighting a slew of emblematic song titles, agencies and brands.

Watch our REEL 2021

Trends in music advertising : Excerpts of interviews conducted for this article.

“Music that evokes a sense of lightness and freedom is making a comeback. A throwback to eras when everything was allowed – tapping into the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, including disco!”

– Xavier Debreuille, Director of Development and Publishing, Musicor

“I believe TikTok and social media have had a large influence on agencies and brands, including in the United Kingdom and the United States, where we noticed the soaring popularity of TikTok-esque songs that make people dance. A clubland spirit, albeit “by day” and more colourful, soundtracked the confinement period for young and old alike. In such markets, the songs heard in ads are completely in sync with social movements. We are noticing a real desire to positively impact and reflect diversity and inclusion in all its forms. This is also apparent in the removal of barriers between music genres.”

– Florent Clavel, Creative and Sync Licensing Rep, Third Side Music

“Something that has been consistent throughout the pandemic is lyrics about togetherness – everyone is missing their loved ones and looking forward to when we can all get back together again. That reality is reflected in the choice of songs for advertisements.”

– Jayne Costello, Director, Publishing Synchronization at Concord Music

About Music Rights Clearance

Based in Montreal, mainly active in North America and Europe, Music Rights Clearance works in partnership with major record labels, artists, rights holders and owners of music catalogues to license music titles at extremely competitive rates, as quickly as possible, for a range of advertising agencies and entertainment companies. Its team of specialists provides services that include rights clearances, cost estimates, music research and supervision, contract consulting as well as the re-recording and composition of original music.

Have a look at our portfolio.

Check out the article on the subject featuring one of our team member on LaPresse.