The sound of storytelling: How audio aids ads

Simon Lister.
Simon Lister.

Nylon Studios creative director Simon Lister talks sound design Campaign Asia-Pacific

While video content requires careful visual planning and execution, sound still accounts for 60% of an ad or online video’s effectiveness—an area that creative marketers need to take advantage of.

Simon Lister, creative director at Nylon Studios and sound designer for over 25 years, believes that sound should play a role in the ideation room rather than just post-production.

It’s not just that sound is fundamentally powerful when it comes to sensorial storytelling, or that sound, when marginally off, significantly reduces engagement—Zach King can tell you because he’s tested it—but rather a sound can be the seed for an idea.

"I’d like to see agencies involve sound design, perhaps even at the concept stage," said Lister. "We can suggest ideas and sounds that creatives might not even have thought of. It’s also about giving enough time to design sound with the right story and emotion."

Nylon Studios, which has offices in New York and Sydney, specializes in all aspects of sound production and design, from effects through to music score composition for ads, online content as well as short films and full-length features. The company also handles music rights and management and recently won sound awards at the AWARD Awards and Axis Awards in Australia and New Zealand.

Nylon Studios has offices in New York and Sydney


Lister, who is no stranger to the relationship between sound and visuals, is an avid photographer who frequently films his own motorbike journeys through the Himilayas, Mexico, and the deserts of Morocco. His photography has also been featured in a Coca-Cola campaign.

Rather than thinking of sound as a separate or minor element in an ad, film or other content piece, Lister believes that sound has an equal role in the final product.

"You can turn off the visuals and only hear the sounds or music and still be carried away on an emotional level," said Lister, speaking of the brain’s ability to fill the gaps. "Sounds tell stories, and agencies should involve us earlier rather than tell us they need to run a TVC in two days."

Other than ideation and the storytelling impact of sound, Lister sees staying relevant and passionate about the craft as a vital ingredient to successful client work.

With a talented team of composers and sound designers—some of whom have formed highly successful bands in the US and Australia, as well as launched YouTube channels with over a million subscribers—having expansive talent and a culture that sees creativity broadly, is what makes good work, even in the realm of sound.  

Lister’s advice for creative marketers:

    • Expand your creative toolkit to include sound 
    • Try thinking about sound first or at least in the early stages of creative development. See what inspiration and ideas come to mind.
    • Don’t think of sound last. You’re losing out on opportunities to create something sensorial and holistic.

Watch Campaign Asia-Pacific's exclusive video interview with Lister (at AdFest) for more:

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