AI – tone deaf or not?

Irene Joshy
By Irene Joshy | 1 May 2024
Irene Joshy

We have often heard that music is the language of the soul. There is no debating that music moves people in more ways than one. Neuroscientists believe that music activates, transforms, and even works therapeutically on brain activity. Music has a strong role to play in keeping the human brains and hearts engaged. 

The use of music in advertising is well-known and well documented. Globally, 84 per cent of ads use music and the Kantar LINK database indicates that in Australia that number is about 81 per cent. About a half of these Aussie ads employ prominent music. On YouTube and TikTok, music works its magic with improving attention, driving significant uplifts in both, purchase intent and brand favourability. 

With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we observe a surge in experimentation with sound and music – composing melodies, recreating voices of the past (prosaic and poetic) – with the aim to be distinctive and entertain. 

So, for this latest deep dive into analysing creative effectiveness through Kantar’s LinkAI database, I decided to see if LinkAI could pick up the mood, melody, tone and timbre of music to measure the impact it has on advertising. We ran 50 ads – with and without music - through the machine to understand two things:

  1. Does the machine pick up music?
  2. Do the creatives tested by the machine mirror consumer reactions to music?

The results indicate that AI is not tone deaf!

In fact, 65 per cent of the ads with music ended up with high scores across all key creative measures that would have shown up in consumer tests as well. 

But there was yet another surprise, the machine could predict emotions as well (combining music, messaging and its impact) with high levels of accuracy.  

So, what did we learn? 

The key impact when it comes to the use of music is the element of emotive clarity. This is the central nervous system that guides how consumers engage with, understand, and perceive the brand via the creative. Therefore, it becomes a short-cut to deliver the spirit and emotive equity of the brand.  

Leggo’s ‘It’s how we do Italian’ is a classic Aussie narrative with music and humour coming together to deliver highest levels of engagement, strong brand equity impact. It is a cheeky and hilarious take on Aussie Italian and the brand owns the idea for itself with great simplicity. Our machine correctly identified and mapped the joy and smiles (above Australian norms) this narrative would trigger among humans. 

MacStack Mascara’s emotions are high on surprises and the music creates the message and mood synchrony which works to drive high levels of desire and persuasion (in the 90th + percentile). The electronica seems to be operating with the camera movements drawing attention to the eyes and the transformative power of the mascara.

On the topic of music and motion, we had to showcase the Kmart ‘Low prices for Life’ that uses lilting tunes that wax and wane yet deliver strongly on attention and brand building.

Music has also been used to create suspense, intrigue, and trigger action. The Ladbrokes Steve ad does stir up some action and emotions – highly enjoyable and involving, the machine sees consumers feeling a myriad of emotions ranging from surprises, disgust, anger, smiles and joy. With this one, we seem to have given the machine quite the roller-coaster emotional ride. 

But just good music is not enough to sell the idea or build the story – music does play its part and even at its worst can drive cut-through and involvement. But the ad needs more than a couple of choral tunes to make true impact. This became evident in the SuperBowl T-Mobile Home Internet – other than the power to entertain the creative doesn’t seem to do much for the brand and I am guessing the aim was awareness and entertainment – so I guess KPIs met!

Brands have used choral singing bringing more people into the fold and democratising the brand for all – The Balters ‘There’s a beer for everybody here’ (reminiscent of the iconic Carlton Draught Big ad) does a great job of engaging consumers by making them feel joyous and the music has a key role to play in the entire narrative. It has a strong impact on brand love and what is not to love when there is beer for everybody. 

On the topic of beer, this analysis would be incomplete if the machine was not put to test with the iconic VB music track adapted in the new VB campaign – ‘Hard Earned Thirst’. Joy and pride are what the music brings to this celebration of the skills and hard work of the Aussie workers. The creative scores high on engagement, enjoyment, and potential to drive sales. Staying true to the roots and consistency pays off in ensuring that the ad is intuitively distinguishable as a VB. 

Qantas advertising consistently uses music to trigger the feeling of home whether it is ‘I still call Australia home’ or the recent ‘Feels like home again’. The ad is strong on enjoyment, cut-through, being meaningful, different, and driving brand values. Persuasion is not a measure that we would normally see impacted by music. However, Qantas with this new creative manages to be persuasive as well. 

But there is more than one way to persuade consumers

Oxymoronic silence is another as demonstrated by Kia EV9 ‘Silence never felt so loud’ – great use of ‘Voices of Fire – Joy’ to showcase the vehicle in all its glory. High on its persuasive ability through mood mirroring, message synchrony and musical continuity, the creative takes you on an uplifting drive. Silence in this case does speak louder and the asset does a fantastic job on driving surprises and delighting consumers. 

So, when music is composed well to deliver the message, communicate the right mood for the brand creative, it works wonders in terms of driving engagement and involvement. But there is greater advantage in getting music right to drive emotive clarity that benefits the brand in many ways – it makes the brand stand out from the clutter and noise especially on Digital, drives brand love and creates memorability. Music, today, truly has a universal language – a language that is understood by humans and AI.  

Irene Joshy is Head of Creative, Kantar Australia

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