(This was reprinted from the article I had written on Model Electronic blog, on Oct 23, 2011.)
How to solve it/them. That’s what I most care about when I work on composition/sound design for advertising projects. Of course, contribution of music to the whole advertising work is limited, and in some cases you could get through eventually just by providing music matching its images or what your immediate director (creative director, agency, or agent, whatever) demands. But that might be something that happened to work well. As long as advertising work is one style of composite expression achieved by some members (= a team) and it exists primarily for some marketing solution of clients, in original terms, just “composing a track so as to match my director’s demand” seems to fulfill no more than half of what you really should accomplish.
Moreover, actual issues we face in advertising projects are not limited to marketing ones (= issues between the client/sponsor and consumers/their customers). From a standpoint of a person in charge of music/sound, there are realistically much more issues around one advertising project as stated below.
(Note: This is the case of custom music production, not sync licensing. And “client” means sponsor (i.e. final decision maker), not immediate ones such as agency or director/supervisor.)
Several levels of Issues
Issue Level-1: Potential issues the client’s customers have (and could be solved by the client’s product or service).
Issue Level-2: Issues the client has inside and outside when they work on solving the Issue Level-1.
– From marketing issues such as branding, share, competitors, distribution, etc. to management issues such as resources, stock holders (IR), etc.
Issue Level-3: Issues the advertising project team (including client, agency, and creative team) has.
– Relationship with the client, its makeup, budget and schedule, key person, politics about not limited to the crew but including the cast and his/her agency, incidental aims such as awards or tie-in promotion, etc.
Issue Level-4: Issues the creative team has.
– Production budget and schedule, production style (which comes first, composition or film making, or even coincidental), timing/season of on-air, recording style (e.g. hiring outside musicians/orchestra), etc.
As a matter of course, our final goal is to bring out solutions to Issue Level-1, after watching carefully all levels of the issues, prioritizing/focusing on some of them, and completing your role so as to harmonize it with the other members and issues. I can’t say for 100% sure that I could have made it with all my past work since I’m not in a position to make a judgment (but consumers are), and how much you can commit to the project would differ greatly according to its situation, but at least you would always have to recognize these various issues consciously whatever type your project is.
If you fail to be conscious of the issues
Perhaps you could find that there are many unwelcome (not to say horrible) advertising works that just solve the issues after Issue Level-3 and don’t get to the most important Issue Level-1 at all (e.g. artistically “creative” or greatly viral but not reaching an essential marketing solution, unless the client has a fat budget), or fail to analyze the client’s own Issue Level-2, or even fail to speak to their customers (e.g. just bragging). If we see from a musical standpoint, we often come across some unfortunate cases where the music and other elements don’t work together well for the message/target or negate each other’s effects. That might be because he couldn’t resist his director’s misplaced opinion or persistence (including so-called “Temp Love”), or he just didn’t care about other elements than the director’s immediate order. Which is like an orchestra player who doesn’t see what his conductor and other players really do because of trying desperately to follow the score in front of him, or like an actor swayed by his assistant director’s whim.
Always make sure
Whenever you’re not sure if you’re doing the right thing, you should ask the suitable person of your project about it. Also make sure or discuss if you and other members are ready enough to share a core of the issues to get convinced. Some early or quick actions may allow you to move forward to the right direction. In such a messy situation it would be very difficult to let the advertising resonate with consumers unless a super-efficient project leader could exercise his full responsibility to get everything right immediately. (Fortunately I’ve hardly got involved in such troubles in these years, though.)
At any rate, I think it’s very important for you to become conscious enough of any potential issues around your project BEFORE focusing on your actual role since you are in the same boat which moves forward to the same goal.
From next time I will elaborate on how I’ve been working on “How to Solve it” by using specific examples.