How advertisers can tap into consumers' feelings with the art of sound

The COO of audio post-production company Sound Lounge explains how to keep your viewers from clicking the "mute" or "skip" buttons.

Facebook recently announced it will auto-play some ads with the sound on. While this wasn’t met with a warm welcome from consumers, I applaud the decision because it’s a huge wake-up call for the brands and agencies that reserve sound for the last scraps of their budget.  

Being in this business for over 30 years now, I’ve made my opinion known that sound will always be an important part of marketing, entertainment and content. Snapchat’s Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan is in agreement. He said that "sound is the core part of the video ad experience" and "advertisers are paying video prices for what amounts to banner ads" when they don’t consider sound as an integral part of their plans.

Seeing huge platforms like Snapchat and Facebook make this stance loud and clear to their brand and agency partners shows us that sound is truly being integrated into the advertising and marketing family. It's slowly stepping away from being considered the "redheaded stepchild" it once was.

But our work isn’t over until everyone in adland believes sound is as important for their campaign or brand story as the visuals, writing, and yes, the idea. Here’s why.

Take Audi’s spot "Summer," for example. The ad truly incorporates sound to tell the story. Don’t believe me? Listen to it. Without these sounds, the story is less impactful. The change of the audio is what goes along with the change in weather. It needs sound in order to make sense. And while you may think that’s subtle, imagine it with just music and voiceover. The spot loses some of its heart and soul.

Also, think of the context in terms of sports. Are you cheering loudly for Roger Federer or Serena Williams during their tennis matches? No, you’re quiet so they can concentrate on the game. Sound—and even silence—matters. 

So what does the advertising community need to do? We must continue to talk about the importance of sound beyond what Snapchat and Facebook are doing. This is the most critical time to do so, especially since voice technology, AI and yes, even VR, are still in their experimentation stages. These media require sound to fully immerse consumers into the experiences, so why wouldn’t we apply that same thought into the platforms we’ve already mastered?

Together we can make this happen, but we need more advocates to voice these concerns to their brand and agency partners. Then, maybe we won’t be the industry that creates work that people scroll past and press "skip" or "mute," but rather, the industry that's known for producing engaging, immersive and forward-thinking content that keeps consumers yearning for more.

Are you with me?

Marshall Grupp is the partner, COO and sound designer at Sound Lounge.

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