How You Can Use Unconventional Music to Make Bold Statements
by Lewis Foster
Last year I discovered Sandwich Video, an LA-based video production company revered for their playful, edgy commercials. They are sought-after by some of the world’s biggest tech brands and up-and-coming startups alike.
Watch just a few of their videos and it’s easy to see how well-refined a recipe it is that Adam Lisagor and his team have concocted. Their videos blend deadpan humor, bohemian characters, and abstracted environments – all packaged and produced with the utmost finesse.
But what is it about this seemingly niche approach that has proved so popular and effective?
On a fundamental level, what Sandwich’s work really demonstrates is a shift in what video content must do in order to build rapport between a brand and its audience. Making the choice to use unconventional music and style instantly rejects formality and rigid professionalism in favor of genuine fun.
It's an approach being embraced by leading brands such as Apple and Google, and one that has long been mastered by popular vloggers like Casey Neistat.
"Creative" Advertising - free yourself to actually be creative!
There are a couple of things going on under the bonnet here that I think are key to why this style is becoming so vital in today’s media landscape.
1 - We, as viewers, almost unconsciously connect the style of the video to the people and brand that created it; they’re having fun, being inventive, and not taking themselves too seriously. Most importantly, they’re clearly real, relatable people. That’s what counts when it comes to connecting with the audience and earning their trust.
2 - This approach has a deep-down respect for the viewer. It gets that the last thing we want is more soulless marketing or staid product explanations. It treats us for what we are; intelligent (hopefully!) humans who will light-up and pay attention if our emotions and intellect are kindled. As is usually true, humor is the most uniting emotion of them all!
3 - To bring this around to my own area of interest, one ingredient that is common to this refreshing style is the use of unconventional music. Whether it’s weird lo-fi beats or kitschy tunes, unconventional music is used unabashedly to not only underline the character of the scene but to celebrate it too.
I’d like to continue by exploring some of the ways that unconventional music can be used to great effect.
Example 1 - The Retro Parody
How about that, an ad for AdBlock! This commercial, created by Sandwich video, is a great example of how a comedic analogy can be used to explain a product.
Switch the sound off and this ad makes a lot less sense and perhaps seems all the more ridiculous! The gaudy 80s synth backing tracks are the magic ingredient in setting the comical tone right from the start. It takes us right back to the era of The Karate Kid!
The key here is using distinctly retro music as part of a parody concept to poke fun at a dated era. This is something nearly everyone can enjoy and relate to.
Example Playlist - I’ve picked out a selection of retro music (access here) on Music Vine to serve as inspiration!
Example 2 - Childlike, Clumsy and/or Cute
This is a very trendy sound in ads at the moment. It’s one that lends itself brilliantly to friendly narration and playful interaction between the character we see and the narrator themselves.
In this particular video from Apple, we have a completely abstracted situation; a character stood within an empty white space embodying someone’s frustration with a non-Apple product. The packaging of their statement as a tweet, the starkly minimal environment, and the clever dialogue between the narrator and character contribute to a sense of underlying sophistication and modernity. The ungraceful pizzicato music and characterization package this in a way that is tongue-in-cheek and friendly. It’s a very clever way of wrapping what are really quite aggressive marketing messages within engaging content – a wolf in sheep’s clothing at its finest!
Example Playlist - To help get creative juices flowing, I’ve created a playlist of tracks in this vein (access here) that are all available for licensing.
Example 3 - OTT
The final approach we’ll look at has become a regular appearance on our screens over the last few years. The example ad above for Groupon (also made by Sandwich) is characterized by grandiose orchestral music and the exaggeratedly distinguished voice-over. Together these set an almost farcical mood for each of the comical scenes we see.
Personally, I feel this particular style can be pretty abrasive – perhaps because of the nature of it being completely over-the-top. But it clearly has its purposes and appears to be a great way of presenting aspirational content in a way that’s fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Example Playlist – And, of course, here's a playlist of tracks that just scream "over the top" (access here).
The exciting thing about all of the approaches we’ve explored here is the potential they bring to videographers for getting really creative and having a lot of fun along the way. Naturally, a humorous or quirky tone will only be appropriate for certain productions, but for many promotional videos it seems that this is a style that should certainly be considered.
At a time when most people are vexed by the mass of marketing we’re exposed to, this is evidently a very effective way of breaking the mold and really engaging an audience by providing content that is genuinely entertaining.