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Sound in absentia

Feb 12, 2018
Listen closely – when it comes to advertising, it’s a noisy world out there. But as we’re about to discover, some companies have made their voices heard by falling silent.

This year, Amazon won the top spot among the Super Bowl viewing audience with their campaign, ‘Alexa Loses Her Voice’. While the voice-activated personal assistant has only been around since 2014, it’s already become internationally recognisable – so removing her distinctive sound in this funny, intelligent 90-second feature really made an impact. Instead of Alexa’s friendly, helpful tones, users had to rely on the help of iconic celebrities instead. We’re treated to hot-headed Gordon Ramsay berating a user asking how to make grilled cheese; Rebel Wilson embarrassing party guests while reclining in a bath; and even stage and screen great Anthony Hopkins giving the kind of sinister performance only he can offer. Watchable and hilarious, it became the most celebrated and viewed ad of the event, presenting Alexa not only as irreplaceable, but intricately developed to be as good as possible at her job.

Amazon aren’t the only ones to turn down the volume on their advertising, and luxury car brand Audi also championed the power of quiet in ‘Cooling Down.’ Promoting the RS 4 Avant, this feature stands out even among Audi’s generally outstanding collection of adverts. Where many of their previous productions have been based around iconic tracks (including 2017’s colourful ‘Clowns’), this contains no music whatsoever – or driving. The viewer is introduced to the car having just come off the track. The engine is switched off, and we hear the sounds of the powerful machine coming to rest; the hiss of cooling brake pads, the whirr of fans, and the quiet rumble of metal components coming to rest. The car is simultaneously simple and complex – composed of countless mechanical parts working in harmony to create comfort, performance and speed. There are no distractions – it’s the car, and only the car. Motoring adverts commonly sell a lifestyle, but Audi surprised and impressed by offering a minute of gripping viewing that gives undivided attention to the machinery. And, to finish, the tagline – ‘The unmistakeable sound of the new Audi RS 4’.

While we appreciate these adverts for sound’s absence, we’ve not been left in complete silence – and the noticeable elimination of sound makes the lack of noise the focus. These adverts wouldn’t have worked without this focus on a brand’s sound – in Amazon’s case, the voice we rely on, and for Audi, the noise of efficient machinery. And while a campaign without sound can work, the same cannot be said for a brand. Audio creates and reinforces emotion, establishes memorability, and reflects values. In some cases, it can work so well that people’s minds instantly conjure up a brand when they hear a certain track. Therefore, silence can be damaging – nowhere more so than on-hold. Left in the quiet, a caller can feel forgotten and neglected, and may even consider hanging up. With the introduction of sound, a relationship is created – portraying the most professional brand image to engage the listener.

A brand thrives with sound over silence, so turn up the volume to speak directly to a customer.