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Do you hear what I hear?

Nov 21, 2019
Sound is far from a new concept when it comes to TV advertisements – memorable jingles, songs and voiceovers date back to some of the world’s earliest ads. What is new, however, is our relationship with sound on the screen. Instead of playing the support act, audio is now becoming the star of the show – and brands are being forced to find new ways to keep their audiences alert.

A recent eye-tracking study showed that 60% of people look away during the advert breaks. In a digital world where multiple screens command our attention at any given time, it now takes something more to keep our eyes on the TV when the commercials come around.
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As Christmas ad spend hits a new high, businesses need to be absolutely sure their money is being well-spent – and the biggest brands are using sound to make sure their message is heard during a period when everyone’s competing for airtime. Close your eyes during this year’s line-up, and you’ll instantly recognise the familiar voices of Frozen brought back to life by Iceland; Mariah Carey singing about the UK’s favourite crisp; or even another classic song turned acoustic for John Lewis – but one company that’s firmly in the running for 2019 is IKEA’s ‘Silence the Critics’ commercial.

They got grime legend D Double E on board to pen a track called ‘Fresh N Clean’; a song that makes light of the extra pressure we put ourselves under at Christmas, and how a few bits from your favourite Swedish furniture brand will get your home visitor-ready in no time. Beyond the message, the most impressive feat is that it was delivered almost solely through the medium of sound. Sure, the ornaments coming to life is all part of the comedy, but this advert could work just as well without any visuals – and as the first ever festive advert to feature grime, it’s clear IKEA was planning on making some noise this Christmas.

Renault has also been making waves this month with an LGBTQ+ ad that has none of the clichéd Christmas sparkle but all of the sentiment. This ad follows an English and French girl over three decades as we watch their relationship unfold – and though no words are uttered, Rahel Debebe-Dessalegn’s cover of ‘Wonderwall’ tells us all we need to know about this touching love story.

US brands have been using audio in a different way to pay their respects this Veterans Day. The NFL’s ‘Salute to Service’ followed military members as they read out letters from some of their sporting heroes. It’s a moving commercial that can put its emotional impact entirely down to the voices within it – and the same can be said for Jeep’s Veterans Day spot, which uses a deep, emotionally intense voiceover that would achieve the same impact were it delivered over the radio.

So next time you’re watching TV and the ads come on, close your eyes and see just how important sound has become.