A Look Inside 5 Ads Where Music Was Critical To Storytelling


Why did you do an original composition? 

I thought it would be a great opportunity to create something ownable for the brand and something that people will associate with them. I also felt like we could tell our “Third Stair” story in a really beautiful way if we had a little bit more control over what we were saying. 

What’s the most basic piece of advice you’d give someone about using music in ads? 

You could keep listening to music forever, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there and understand that not everyone will agree with you. Then you have to have reasons why you chose the song. 

You get second-guessed a lot?

I’ve definitely had people within my company say “That wasn’t my favorite” or “That’s not what I would’ve picked.” 

Does it bother you?

No. I don’t care. It’s so subjective. And you know what? I’m not telling them how the art direction should be or what the copywriting should be. 

Where do your musical tastes run? 

I’m an ’80s kid, so I love the Cure. I love pretty much everything the Cure has done. But I also grew up in a hip-hop world, with A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and the sort of the production values they brought to the table. 

Give me a couple examples from your current playlist.

I’m unabashedly a big fan of Katy Perry’s recent music. It’s so weird and fun and good. My favorite thing out right now is LSD: Labrinth, Sia and Diplo. I think it’s one of the best pop records I’ve heard in years. 

Do you like “Old Town Road”?

It’s not my thing. That sort of style I can’t get into.

Talk about your early days.

I played music when I was growing up, but I didn’t really get into it until just after high school. I got into that, and then got booked for a tour. I dropped out of college to do that, and I never did anything else [except music]. Our group was four DJs, me on samplers and keys. We would have a drummer play with us, a bass player, a trumpet player. And we got booked opening for Toots and the Maytals. So, we did that. 

Did that lead you into the production side of music?

We started some labels to just put out our records, our friends’ records. And that kind of took me into the business side of things, which I really enjoy. I like using both sides of my brain. I feel most rewarded when I do that. So I got into the business side, running these record labels and a distribution company and a recording studio. And that took me into producing music. 

You got into advertising from there?

I started a company called Music Dealers with some guys where we did stuff for ads, movies, TV shows, and we would represent independent artists. And we would also make music with the artists we represented. That’s how I got into the advertising world. We started working in-house at Coca-Cola. and that’s how I got my ad branding education.

Is your current work creatively fulfilling for you? 

I’ve been working on it for about 10 years! I’m pretty creatively fulfilled, for sure, with what I do now. I get to go in the studio and write songs, and I get to do a lot of editing music, which is something I really enjoy. 

What’s your advice for people who want to break into the music biz?

I get a lot of people—younger people like co-workers, nieces and nephews and daughters—say, “I want to be a musician. I want to do something in music, but I don’t know what.” And there are so many jobs within music other than “rock star.” Last week, I was at Interscope Records in L.A. There’s 300 people doing all kinds of stuff working in that building. I feel kids don’t necessarily see those jobs. But it’s important to know they’re out there. And my job is just one of them.

David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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