time to change the way we view music and the arts

Coming to a consensus about classical in commercials

TV Classics Spotify station

Cover art for one Spotify Station titled,
“TV Classics: Classical Music from Television Series and Commercials”
(Cit. Spotify.com)

As of late, I have noticed that Delta Faucets is heavily promoting a TV ad they created, wherein their various faucet lines are featured simultaneously. However, it is structured in such in such a way that, while visually appealing and sleek, is also heavily tied to a musical engine as the driving force for its impact and initial attraction factor for any viewers who pass by it while watching some other program.


My first thought after seeing this ad for the first time: Isn’t Delta concerned that only “music people” would really fawn over such a display? Okay maybe not only but people attuned to music on a more regular basis could certainly be more inclined to find different layers of enjoyment in this ad, as opposed to people who might only enjoy it for the visually choreographed aspects. The latter might very well see the music representing more of a quirky afterthought. (Did anyone happen to catch the melodic reference to the Four Tops hit, “Reach Out I’ll Be There?”)
That ad used an original concept coupled with uniquely delivered “music” but interestingly, despite the fact that the melodic element was so integral to the ad’s entertainment value, the music itself could still be lost amid the visual components if you don’t know for what you are listening. Conversely, when music is shuffled to a secondary supporting position, typically as a synchronization tool, it is often spotlighted more, due to its timelessly recognizable nature but then it ends up being coupled with products or companies that are targeting people who could very well be described with the following characteristics:
  1. older
  2. traditional
  3. elitist (and / or)
  4. excluding
Examples of products and companies who have applied and emotionally directed their audience with this approach:
  1. HP / Intel (for their Touchsmart PC line)
  2. Multiple fragrance ads
Why does the US in particular, perpetuate a projected air of classical stereotypes to the rest of the world? Not only does the placement of free and open domain classical tracks give an immediate impression of “This was the easiest thing; like music out of a can” but, beyond slapping up a piece for syncing, there’s also the occasional mockery and over the top application of the music’s sub-cultural components, which is even worse than using the music-in-a-can approach.
J.G. Wentworth, a financial services firm, previously relied on an operatic motif for their primary TV ad, whose audio track spanned several different settings and versions. The original though, was set in a scenario that fully parodies traditional opera –stage, singers and all– and introduced something that, while mentally catchy, seemed to focus more on making sure they hammer home a jingle rather than making sure people actually process what the service even intends to do or provide. Furthermore, the opera-spoofing ad left the company having to resort to using subtitles and the operatic joke wasn’t even applied in a way connectable to true music or opera, with the humor derived almost entirely from the generally inane and comedic execution, to say nothing of putting opera in a positive light or even creating a metaphor connecting back the firm.

Then there are the third category of commercials that do apply a classical composition in a way that supports the mood of a product or service without detracting from the product or placing a generalized emotion onto the use of classical material, other than emotions derived from things like music tempo, volume or instrument timbre. Coca Cola did this well with their 2013 Superbowl ad and the application of the Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah. (Not including discussion on the slight controversy that brewed over ethnicities in the ad)
In the case of HP and Acura, these commercials can definitely be commended for stepping outside the “old and stuffy box,” as a young, fit athlete and glimmering digital tech don’t feed into a conservative or overly traditional mindset. However, an association of superiority still remains, as the idea of refinement and a higher echelon of brand are undeniably evoked.
The idea that there be only one “acceptable” way to utilize classical music in ads is silly but the evidence of three very contrasting strategies creating three very different impressions makes one wonder if any of the three could ever been interchanged, or, if they are fixed to being used in their respective ways –humorous mockery, setting-enhancing or subconsciously superior– for specific products, because of the outside and separate components of brand history and established pricing. (e.g. Heinz has used classical music in their ads but will they ever use it in a context meant to evoke extreme seriousness and or fragility? Most likely not, since their products are ubiquitous and of cheaper affordability.)
Is classical music’s use in ads just something where we say, “Things are what they are,” or, could there be a fourth method of application that hits upon the three reactions in a more balanced and non-stereotypically influencing way?

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