Ad Infinitum

It's all in the Execution

January 24, 2024 Season 1 Episode 7
It's all in the Execution
Ad Infinitum
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Ad Infinitum
It's all in the Execution
Jan 24, 2024 Season 1 Episode 7

Ad Infinitum is the only podcast solely focused on audio ads - the creatives who make them and/or the latest thinking that informs them, how the space is evolving, and a round-up of recent audio ads and analysis by Stew Redwine, VP Creative at Oxford Road, and each episode's guest. The first season's episodes focus on individual Audiolytics™ Key Components and how they show up in the ads for some of the top spenders in audio.

The finale episode of Ad Infinitum Season 1 - "It's all in the Execution" - welcomes two Sound Strategists; Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director for SXM Media’s Studio Resonate, and Bjorn Thorleifsson, Head of Research & Insights at amp sound branding, to discuss the 9th and final Audiolytics™ Key Component; Execution. In short, does every word count?

Support the Show.

Ad Infinitum is Presented by Oxford Road, Produced by Caitlyn Spring & Ezra Fox, mixed & sound designed by Zach Hahn, and written & hosted by Stew Redwine.

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Show Notes Transcript

Ad Infinitum is the only podcast solely focused on audio ads - the creatives who make them and/or the latest thinking that informs them, how the space is evolving, and a round-up of recent audio ads and analysis by Stew Redwine, VP Creative at Oxford Road, and each episode's guest. The first season's episodes focus on individual Audiolytics™ Key Components and how they show up in the ads for some of the top spenders in audio.

The finale episode of Ad Infinitum Season 1 - "It's all in the Execution" - welcomes two Sound Strategists; Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director for SXM Media’s Studio Resonate, and Bjorn Thorleifsson, Head of Research & Insights at amp sound branding, to discuss the 9th and final Audiolytics™ Key Component; Execution. In short, does every word count?

Support the Show.

Ad Infinitum is Presented by Oxford Road, Produced by Caitlyn Spring & Ezra Fox, mixed & sound designed by Zach Hahn, and written & hosted by Stew Redwine.

Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hit it. [music 00:00:01].

Stew Redwine (00:00):
Ad Infinitum is the only podcast solely focused on audio ads, the creatives who make them, the latest thinking that informs them, how the space is evolving, and my favorite part, a roundup of recent audio ad and analysis by yours truly, Stew Redwine, VP Creative at Oxford Road, and each episodes guest. This episode title is, It's All in the Execution, discussing the audio litics key component execution. In short, does every word count?

So the first eight components of audio litics are all about substance and structure. The last one, the ninth key component, execution, is all about is every word in the script working together and is it working as hard as it can?

The old adage, never use two words when one will do, is a guiding light for every script. Has every word earned its right to be there? But beyond the words, what are the sounds and the emotions they're evoking? The degree to which a brand is intentional in audio has a massive impact on how their ads and their brand are experienced, remembered and chosen by listeners. The power of audio is immense because we were born to listen. Hearing develops 16 to 20 weeks and is fully developed in newborns. Vision isn't fully developed until the ages of two or three. Our hearing is all around us all the time. Vision is about 180 degrees to the sides and 100 feet high. We hear in 360 degrees, and our hearing is always on even when we sleep. And we react to what we hear faster than to what we see 20 to 100 times faster. I mean they use the starting gun in track and field for a reason.

Sound as an input is processed so quickly that it influences all the other inputs that we receive. Plus, auditory memory lasts two to four times longer than visual memory and powerfully connects to our deepest memories. We process sound in the exact same part of the brain where we process emotions. Biologically, we are wired to here in the same place that we feel. So when it comes to advertising, the power of audio to fuel feeling, fluency and fame is massive.

That's what we're going to talk about today with our two guests both sound creatives and sonic strategists. Welcome Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director for SiriusXM Media Studio Resonate, and Bjorn Thorleifsson, Head of Research and Insights at amp sound branding. Welcome to Ad Infinitum.

Steve Keller (02:20):
Hi Stew. Great to be here.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (02:20):
Hi Stew. Thank you for having me.

Stew Redwine (02:23):
Great to have you. So hey, Bjorn, I was looking at a podcast journal article from back in July and you were just talking about, you know, some of the stuff in the intro here, just how powerful audio is, and that musical ad campaigns are 27 percent more likely to report large business effects compared to non-musical campaigns. And that if the music is aligned to your brand, it's 96 percent more likely to be remembered by customers.

I mean that is huge the difference music can make. And beyond that, you know, that Sonic branding can make, obviously, with your work with MasterCard. And another quote that you had said is that if you have a Sonic identity, you're building brand equity. And I kind of think of it, it's like, it's not an if you have a Sonic identity, every brand has a Sonic identity. It's the degree to which they're intentional with it. What do you think of that?

Bjorn Thorleifsson (03:11):
Yeah, I mean, as you say, every brand has a Sonic identity, to a certain extent you are correct because all brands use sound in some way. But unfortunately, a majority of them are not very thoughtful in how they are using it to their greatest potential. Because as you say music has such a fantastic way to reach us emotionally and build memory structures. And if you are doing it haphazardly or, you know, you use the latest stock tracks and you know they might fit the brand, you are not optimizing the use of sound flow. Yes, you might have a good brand in terms of the stock music you're using, but another brand might using the same stock music. Also what we're seeing is that stock music rarely has a melodies and that it's actually the melodies that help us member music and therefore it's a excellent way for brands to tap into the power of music by not just using, you know, generic stock music that doesn't have melodies, but have melodies that are owned by the brand. And that really can take your Sonic identity to another level.

Stew Redwine (04:19):
One of the main things we're going to be talking about especially 'cause we're going to be focused on McDonald's with their ba da ba ba ba. And something I think of with music and it relates to something, Steve, you said that I just love is taste, you know. In a recent Adweek article you were talking about how important it is to set aside what you like as a creative, or I would say the person, the brand or whoever it is that you have to set that aside subjectively when it comes to Sonic branding. So what is it that brands do need to focus on? And then what should brands be focusing on when it comes to audio?

Steve Keller (04:50):
Sure. You know when I talk about this idea of being more objective in making decisions, it really kind of relates back to one of my fond little descriptions for Sonic strategy, which is the blending of sound science with sound art in order to help us make sound decisions. So it's not to say that we check our creativity at the door, it's not to say that we even necessarily, you know, throw out our instincts, because a lot of times what we found in the research is that the instincts exist for a reason. But I think what we need to get away from is this idea, particularly when it comes to those who are in the role of approval as we're prototyping designs for distinctive Sonic assets, as we're thinking about ways to use voice and music and soundscapes and product sounds, functional sounds, all of these potential ways that a brand can identify itself sonically. But that decision making process isn't merely the result of one or two individuals personal preferences.

It's really more grounded in a design process. And I think this is an important distinction that while music is a part of Sonic identity and Sonic branding, building a Sonic identity isn't really a music compositional job. It's really more of a design thinking approach where we understand the essence of the brand, where we understand brand values, we understand brands semiotics and symbols. And so how are we developing a Sonic language that communicates all of that? So there are tools that science have at our disposal that we can use to lean into that, and also just kind of getting more intentional about what we want sound to do here, and how sound can do different jobs, and what are the outcomes that we want and how are we measuring those?

Stew Redwine (06:45):
Yeah, it's so important, right, how we measured success. And when you're talking about the whole system there and how music plays a piece in that, Bjorn, I do want to go back to you, like in thinking that way with the MasterCard story, how do you see that at work where it's worth thinking of it from a design standpoint, like Steve was talking about?

Bjorn Thorleifsson (07:04):
Yeah, like Steve was saying like it needs to follow a design process and that's why it's important to have a step by step process that all stakeholders understand from the very beginning and it is followed. And then it's important to look at all the brand material to find the Sonic essence of a brand. And without proper design process, it becomes too subjective.

Stew Redwine (07:28):
Yeah, that subjectivity. You're on it... Like if I'm honest with you, it's for me sometimes as I was first getting into this, it's like, it's arbitrary, like it doesn't matter, you know. It's like, they just made-up those NBC chimes, like whatever, you know, it's contempt prior to investigation. As I spend more and more time in it and working on it and and solving it, it's like, you know, like you said sometimes it's your instincts, your instincts are there for a reason. Make a plan and work that plan and it really pays dividends in audio. And a great example of that is McDonald's, and that's who we're going to focus on today. So I'll do a quick history lesson on the McDonald's I'm Lovin' It campaign and then we're going to jump into how that's coming to life 20 years later.

[music 00:08:07]

McDonald's I'm Lovin' It campaign launched in 2003 and it marked a significant milestone in the company's advertising history. It was the first time McDonald's used a single message instead of commercials globally. This campaign was spearheaded by Justin Timberlake, who helped popularize the jingles vocal hook, which has become more famous than some of Timberlake's own hits. The campaign was a response to McDonald's business challenges in the early 2000s and involved a competition among 14 international ad agencies. The winning idea, "ich liebe es," I love it in German originated from the German agency, Heye & Partner. This slogan was then translated to I'm Lovin' It and launched first in Germany as a nod to the agencies contribution.

Music, specifically hip-hop was an integral part of the campaign from the beginning. Heye & Partner collaborated with the German music house, Mona Davis Music, Tom Batoy and Franco Tortora, and Mona Davis were tasked with creating the music for the campaign leading to the iconic audio logo. Over the years, McDonald's has continued to adapt and reinterpret the I'm Lovin' It slogan to keep it fresh and relevant. The slogan has not only facilitated an emotional connection with customers, but also ensured instant brand recognition and trust. Despite numerous adaptations, the core jingle has remained a key element in McDonald's audio branding strategy demonstrating the power and longevity of a well crafted Sonic identity.

Before we jump into these most recent ads, Steve and Bjorn, do you guys have any thoughts on McDonald's and their approach to their Sonic identity for the listeners?

Steve Keller (09:38):
Sure. I mean, I think this is one of these classic cases where maybe they were lucky in that they kind of backwards approached the development of a Sonic logo here. Like many companies early on, there were brand themes or jingles or pieces of music that they were able to shorten down to a very concise number of five or six notes. And I think McDonald's was one of those. And so because of what Mona Davis did, they did wind up with a little pneumonic hook at the end that they could use as a Sonic logo. And then they have been so consistent in the application of that through the years, and I think this is an important piece of the puzzle is they were committed to using this Sonic property. So often you find that advertising agencies get too worried about wear out, this idea that, oh, a commercial is going to wear out and we need to keep changing things up.

But with Sonic identity, it's really about the wear in, what are you doing with consistency. And so McDonald's has been very consistent in the application of their Sonic properties, the melodies as we were talking about earlier on, Bjorn mentioned the power of a melody, or memory melodies are also extremely flexible and that's another important parameter of Sonic identity. So McDonald's, wherever they were in the world, could modify the instrumentation of this melody and make it culturally relevant, make it connect with consumers in different ways emotionally by changing up the music that was leading into this theme.

And I think that consistency coupled with the size of McDonald's, we have to also realize that there are size effects here, has resulted over the years in just burning, ba da ba ba ba, into our psyche to the point that they don't even have to say I'm Lovin' It, we add that in at the end. It engages us that way. So there's a lot of other things that we can talk about, but I think, you know, the the main thing here is that they were able to find a concise piece of this theme that they developed, turn that into a Sonic logo, and then really lean into that over the years as the property that sticks with us as an earworm.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (12:03):
And if I can add to that, because Steve here we're talking about consistency. So each year, amp undertakes the research where we look at how some of the biggest brands are using sound and whether they're using it strategically or more tactically. And in 2019, McDonald's was using their Sonic logo in 95 percent of all their content. And interestingly enough, in our latest report that was published in May this year, we saw a drop down to 30 percent with quite considerable drop over four years. And I would like to ask Steve, why do you think that might be the case?

Steve Keller (12:38):
Well, look, when... I think consistency is particularly important in the beginning and rolling out and over time. I think that once brands establish this property, there are ways they can deviate from the norm. You know if you think of the McDonald's commercial that had the raising eyebrows, they leaned into the piece of music from Yellow that was used in the Ferris Bueller commercial, "Beautiful, so beautiful." You didn't hear the pneumonic at all.

Now, if you're a purist you would say, "Oh my God, they have just, you know, gotten away from their Sonic property." But the reality is is that McDonald's can now do that. And again, I think there are other ways that they consistently show up without necessarily always using that Sonic property. Now, is it going to hurt them if they leave that property as a whole? Well they're still going to benefit from the size of brand effects, but in my opinion it would be a mistake to leave a property that they have built so much equity in. They could certainly find new ways to use it, new ways to adapt it. But, you know, I'm not so concerned if I see a bit of fall off over time as long as that trend doesn't extend into quite a few years where we see drop off in recognition of that property. And I think that's the real key.

You know, if you don't hear ba da ba ba bah for a year, let's say, is it still sticky enough that consumers are going to recognize it where you could bring it back at some point? Again, I don't know what McDonald's strategy is, I don't know how they're thinking, but I'm not necessarily concerned if I don't hear their Sonic property in a commercial unless it becomes an overall trend where it seems like they're abandoning it. So that's the real question. You know, are they abandoning it or are they simply taking a breath, trying something new and maybe adapting it in in other ways? And, you know, do we hear it in other ways instead of just the commercial? So that would be my response to that.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (14:45):
Yeah, I I couldn't agree more. And one thing that it does upon like with [inaudible 00:14:50] ad is what we often hear from creatives is that they think of Sonic identities as a, you know, limiting. And it's so important to remember that, yes, Sonic branding is a marathon not a sprint. It takes time to build those memory structures, but once you have those memory structures there's nothing stopping you from, you know, licensing of music. But you should only do that when it is an integral part of the storytelling. There's no point in wasting money on a, you know, the most popular song of today if it's just to license that song. If it is integral part of the story telling, absolutely go for it. And then whether you have a Sonic logo at the end or not, you know, depends on the strength of your Sonic logo. Is it well known enough that you can skip it?

Steve Keller (15:34):
And it gets back to the strategy piece of this. So how are you making sound decisions? So whether it's a choice of a voice, whether it's a sound effect, whether it's a piece of music, whether it's not using any sound at all, these are all strategic decisions and they shouldn't just be about how creative is working with one particular ad. It's, how is this being driven by an overall Sonic identity as a whole? Definitely agree.

Stew Redwine (15:58):
And Steve, like you were talking about, and I believe you know this author, David Allen, his book Super Sonic Logos just when he was chatting with Bill Lamar, who was CMO over at McDonald's, that, you know, in summary they wanted to make something that was simple and easy to remember and then that they were relentless with it and that it was inherently related to the brand, right, because of it's fun it's a joyful sound that fits with your everyday, you know, I'm Lovin' It. It's exactly how they wanted you to feel.

He says, "It's easy to say good mnemonics around it, good execution of having it come to life tactically."

So now, let's listen to how they're doing it 20 years in. So like I said, with audio litics, that's the framework that we use for persuasive messages in advertising. When it comes to execution which is after we've constructed the ad from the setup, value propositioning, demonstration, substantiation, offer scarcity path, these are all the things we want to make sure we're communicating or choosing not to communicate. Steve, to your point, sometimes it's about taking these things away. But it's the lens we look through. When it comes to execution, how the ad is crafted, we're looking for it to be written in the correct structure when it comes to audio litics.

Speaker 5 (17:01):
[music 00:17:02] Audio litics, decomponent, nine, execution.

Stew Redwine (17:04):
Are we repeating the setup and the value prop, how we got their attention and how that's tied directly to the value prop at the end of the ad? So like kind of old radio language.

Are we doing a whip around at the back? Like are we coming back around the way we set it up?

Are we paying that off again at the end?

Are we keeping the audience's attention through a professional and broadcast quality approach?

Are we articulating the message in a dynamic way, so we're varying the, it's not all just one note, it's not all just yell and sell, or it's not all just something that they could tune out?

Are we increasing the target audience engagement by referencing information about them, right?

And important to what you were saying too, what we're talking about here is are we matching the brands image?

And then, okay, we've gone from having the Sonic identity of McDonald's in 90 percent of the ads or 80 percent, whatever it was, it was a market drop down in the last few years, right. Are we matching our brand image sonically or are we not?

Is our style consistent throughout the ad?

Are we maintaining the audiences attention throughout the ad by getting their attention and continuing to earn it? It's not just like, hey I got your attention now you have to listen to me. How do I keep it throughout?

Then there's six words that we look to identify are they present or not present, because we've seen an impact on performance and from different messaging models and behavioral science. Those six words are you, new, free, now, because, and easy. And now, after all of that, let's listen to how McDonald's is showing up.

This first ad is from March of 2023. Short and sweet and hard to beat.

Speaker 6 (18:35):
[McDonald's ad 1: 00:18:34]

As if the McCrispy couldn't get any better, bacon and ranch just entered the chat. The Bacon Ranch McCrispy, available at participating McDonald's for a limited time. Ba da ba ba ba.

Stew Redwine (18:50):
All right. Here we go, first one out of the gate. So what do you guys give that first ad?

Steve Keller (18:55):
Man, this is tough because there's so many things you have to take into consideration here. You know, as I was listening to you talk, Stew, you know, a lot of what you were describing were ads that were geared towards purchase intent or performance. And the reality is, is probably only about five to six percent of your audience is ever going to be there for that kind of odd. So in order to get that, what I call, last click, you know, in order to get that immediate response, you need to be first consideration so, because a lot of consumers have already made-up their minds before they get there. So you know the first question that I ask is, you know, what kind of an ad is this?

It does seem to be a little bit more performance related, performance driven, you know. In terms of its effectiveness, first of all, that's going to be driven by brand size, and so you've got McDonald's working for you. You've got Brian Cox that they have leaned into as the voice over here, you know, really recognizable from the standpoint of Succession. Why did they choose that particular voice? I don't know. Is this part of another campaign? Was Brian a spokesperson and other areas? That's another question. You know, I think what we see from the research is that creative effectiveness is huge so is this tied into other campaign elements outside of this one particular ad? Don't really know that. So is the expense of using Brian's voice here kind of optimized and made more cost effective by how they're spreading it out across the campaign?

You know, overall the music choice maybe seems to lean into Brian's voice, that idea of Succession, that's a little bit more highbrow. And you've got you know a clear call to action. So that's just me kind of riffing off the very top.

Stew Redwine (20:41):
I appreciate it and, it's, I know it's a tough game, and having done a few of these episodes now with professionals, it's like what I like about it is that this is how an ad's heard in the wild, right? And you've been exposed to as much McDonald's ads as you've been exposed to, so, you know, we don't know all those things we don't know, where sometimes when we're in these rooms and we're working on all of these plans and all this stuff it's like, okay, how does this thing live out there in the wild? So this ad came in at a 68.1% from an audio litics standpoint. And that's because there's just some a few things that it could do, it could probably do richer product demonstration, maybe that's something you could even do with the sound design, potentially enhanced substantiation of some sort of fact or figure that's tied to it as well. And it does say it's a limited time offer, but that could be sweetened with a specific date. So just to give you a reference point, this one's coming in at a 68.1% from the way that we look at ads with audio litics.

So, what say you?

Steve Keller (21:36):
Based on that analysis, if we're not thinking about effectiveness, if we're not really basing this on a benchmark of, did this actually increase sales? And we're looking at it more in terms of, well does it have those qualities, you know, that might lead to effectiveness? I would probably give this one, you know, between one and ten, I'd probably give it a six. Mainly because I think it does check off all the boxes. Certainly they've got their identity there. You know, Brian sang it at the end. So I find it particularly creative? No. And again you know we look at channel optimization, so this is a radio ad. You know, in a streaming ad, you might actually say, "Click on the link," you know because it could provide that in a streaming digital audio space.

You know, not having that direct link is not a problem, there's a clear call to action. And, you know, I don't know whether it's the bacon, branch if that's what they're pushing. I didn't get anything that really pushed it in that direction for me. It was more just a decent ad. If I was hungry when it came on and I was near McDonald's, it might push me to think about that. But creatively, nothing great there to me that's why I would give it a 6 out of 10, even though it checks off all the boxes.

Stew Redwine (22:53):
How about you, Bjorn, what do you say?

Bjorn Thorleifsson (22:55):
Well, I would like to be a little bit more generous than Steve, and give it 7 out of 10. And the reason being is that I want to look at it more of a Sonic branding strategy plans. And they have been using Brian Cox now for a couple of years and they've been using him quite consistently for these small radio ads and YouTube ads, and some of them are quite funny because it is Brian Cox that you now associated with Succession, and, you know, one of them is just talking about the napkins. And although this one was not particularly creative. Like Steve said, if I was close to McDonald's and not coming from a country that doesn't have McDonald's being Icelandic, I would have definitely like to jump in and grab one ranch.

It has a brand voice that we are slowly getting more and more used to as the voice of McDonald's. And it ends up with a fun way of using the Sonic logo with Brian Cox hamming it.

Stew Redwine (23:52):
Yeah, there's just something about his voice, man, that he's got some gravity. He's just... Love to listen to it. So let's keep going. We've got our benchmark, we know where we started, let's see what they did, that first ad was in March of 2023, 15 second ad. These are national radio ads and the way I selected them was through a tool that we use here Vivix to identify ads that had the highest level of spin on a national level against them. So we're still looking at a top spinder standpoint. So here's the next one is from May of 2023, a couple of months later. Here we go.

Speaker 6 (24:22):
[McDonald's ad 2: 00:24:20]

I love waiting in line at McDonald's, said no one ever. With the McDonald's app, you don't have to. Order ahead from McDonald's app to save time. Ba da ba ba ba. At participating McDonald's.

Stew Redwine (24:37):
All right. Let's flip the script, we're going to start with Bjorn on this one. So what do you think of it and what score do you give it?

Bjorn Thorleifsson (24:42):
Well, I'm going to be harsh and give them 5. Reason being is, yes, it is funny and quirky and they are using their Sonic identity and you know still using Brian Cox through created association with Brian Cox and McDonald's. Unfortunately, the mix has been done in a rush. I found it hard to hear what he was saying, because the level of the music was just too loud. And also found that the music choice did not fit really well with the story that he was saying. I I don't find this happy country music really resonated with standing in line. I think there could have been more creative execution in terms of sound effects, you know, finding ways to kind of almost make you feel like you're waiting in line. That could have been you know more creative execution of the beginning rather than just having this standard stock music behind.

Steve Keller (25:29):
Yeah, I'm going to totally agree with Bjorn here. I feel like this one isn't, you know, geared towards necessarily having to choose a particular item off the menu, it's geared towards changing your behavior and how you're going to order. So I think that's very clear from the script. But emotionally, I feel really disconnected from that message and the music choices. I think, you know, as as Bjorn said, I think that the choice of music is a really odd choice. You know, if you're gonna talk about standing in line is a is a bad thing, well maybe there's a better choice than makes me feel a little more tension about that. We still have the Sonic elements there, we have the voice, we have the Sonic logo, but they could have quite easily dropped to the music at the tail end so that that logo could pop out, they didn't. So so Brian's like singing the McDonald logo over another piece of music, so that's a little confusing. You lose the impact there. And it just felt like it wasn't that well crafted.

And look, I know that a lot of times you know these things are pushed through very quickly, and I've worked on enough of them to know that probably, you know, the music house or the producers that were putting this together were scrambling to make it happen. But this is where you get in trouble when you're not being as consistent with everything that you're putting out creatively. So I would give this one a 5 as well. It had all of the elements there, but in terms of the execution, it just didn't pull it off.

Stew Redwine (27:00):
All right. You guys are being harsher on this one. Let's keep going. I want to listen to the next two so we can see how they're kind of all working together. And from an audio litics standpoint, this one scored a little bit better at 74.1% just in the clarity of the problem solution, this app, this new way to do it, you can get the McDonald's app and save time. There's a lot of clarity there. And so from a substance standpoint, that's super clear. From a finished standpoint, from an execution standpoint, it could probably do better, but, you know, that's the last aspect of it. But like you guys are pointing out there, from an execution standpoint, actually, how does it feel and how does it come across? Is this thing as tight as it could be? So let's see what they're doing a couple months later, this is now in July of 2023. And here we go.

Speaker 6 (27:47):
[McDonald's ad 3: 00:27:47]

Hear that? That's what cooked, when you order, juicy beef sounds like. The steaming hug of two slices of melted cheese, the crunch of tiny pickles and sliced onions, all topped with a toasted sesame seed bun. That's the sound of a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese. Fresh beef at participating US McDonald's, excludes Alaska, Hawaii and US territories.

Stew Redwine (28:08):
Okay. So back to you, Steve. What do you give this one and why?

Steve Keller (28:10):
I was really hoping that they were going to wrap it up, because it started out so strong. You know, the fact that there wasn't music at all, the fact that they were kind of leaning into the sound design almost the ASMR approach of, you know, kind of teasing out this voice with Brian Cox. And then they get to the end, and they have to put this claimer on it. You know, again, creatively could there have been a way to put this into the ad without it being so jolting at the very end? At some point maybe this is where AI might be able to to help us. But it kind of lost it for me at the end. And I didn't really hear, while it gave me a sense of sandwich, it didn't ask me to go buy it. You know, again, so thinking this is not necessarily a brand building spot, thinking about this more from a performance standpoint, you don't have that clear message of, hey, now that you've heard that, and now that you're really hungry, why don't you satisfy that hunger. Turn into the McDonald's.

That was totally missing. So again, if I'm thinking about this as a performance based ad, it started out so strong, but the finish didn't stick the landing. So I'd probably give this one a 4. Other than Brian's voice, they didn't use their identity as we talked about earlier. That's okay, you can get away with that from time to time. But it's obvious that they forgo that in order to get that disclaimer in at the tail end.

Stew Redwine (29:46):
Yeah. And this one scored... We'll get, Bjorn, point of view here in a second. It scored a 63.3% in audio litics, so it's lower there for that same reason that you're identifying in that, hey, here's the sound, here's this thing, but go get it. What is the call to action to go do it? What do I want you to do? Or even in the theater of the mind, like you were saying, that's where my mind would as well, this is how good it sounds, can you imagine what it tastes like?

But Bjorn, what do you think?

Bjorn Thorleifsson (30:13):
I would give it a 5. Just for a good start. It started so well like Steve was saying. And with the sound effects, you were like instantly taken to the grill, you were just feeling the hamburger, like seeing a sizzle. But then it's almost feels like the script is very long, so they had to decide where to put in the sound effects. And to me, what could have been so much better if they had more sound effects at the end, like something to make you think of the act of eating almost. I'm not saying that we need to have Brian Cox with a mouthful of hamburger singing the Sonic logo, but-

Stew Redwine (30:47):
Yes, we do. Actually-

Bjorn Thorleifsson (30:49):
Actually, yes.

Steve Keller (30:50):
And that would have been a great idea.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (30:51):
I really want to hear that now. But because it's so long it's just stumbles at the end. It's not doing it for me.

Stew Redwine (30:57):
Our audience for this is the chief audio officer, that's the person that is either in charge of making the decisions about stewarding the budgets for a brand when it comes to audio, right? So how then should they make decisions based on this kind of thing? And from the ads I've listened to so far and thinking of it through an audio litics standpoint, it's like you've got these incredible tools that your disposal so be thoughtful about how you deploy them.

All right, our final ad from October 2023. Let's give it a listen.

Speaker 6 (31:25):
[McDonald's ad 4: 00:31:24]

For some, today is an ordinary day. But for you, today could be the day you try a new McDonald's sauce for the first time. Maybe you'll dip a McCrispy sandwich into McDonald's mumbo sauce, maybe you'll spread sweet and spicy jam onto your sausage egg McMuffin, maybe you'll dip them a McNugget in both sauces. Any day you try McDonald's new sweet and spicy jam and mambo sauce will be a special day because their time in our famous sauce lineup is limited. At participating McDonald's for a limited time while supplies last.

Stew Redwine (31:56):
Okay. This is the final one. Mr. Bjorn, what do we got, what's your score and what do you think of that one?

Bjorn Thorleifsson (32:01):
I would give you this one a 7. The music fits to Brian Cox's voice. It is trying to elevate the experience of McDonald's by having a little bit of classical components there, and you have this special new sauce, it's driving people to quickly go to McDonald's to try out the new sauce. And overall, it's quirky like the previous ones, but just the execution is just a little bit better except for the lack of Sonic logo at the end.

Stew Redwine (32:31):
Okay. But on balance, even though they made the choice to go without the Sonic logo, you're grading it higher because of, it sounds like, how the execution to the message matched so well. So if anything, adding the Sonic logo in there would be like dipping the chicken McNugget in the sauce, it'd just make it that much better.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (32:48):
Exactly. That's a perfectly phrasing it.

Stew Redwine (32:51):
Okay, so this is the the high score for Bjorn. Steve, what say you?

Steve Keller (32:55):
Yeah.I would say out of the four, this one would get my highest score too. I would give it 7, maybe even 8. I mean I think there is a way in which they have drawn all the components together here. They're emphasizing the sauces, they're kind of creating a FOMO moment by saying, hey, if you don't get it now, you're going to stand the chance of missing it. The music choice works really well, even though it was not necessarily scored for the ad itself, it had few moments where there were little pauses here and there, so that kind of drew you in, helped to highlight some of the copy. The only thing, to me, that could have really improved on this would have been to consider using the Sonic logo at the end with Brian singing it. That's very clever, it's a cool thing. And maybe shortening the script a bit, so again when you get to this disclaimer it doesn't have to be so disruptive.

And, you know, maybe looking for a disclaimer voice that matched Brian's a little bit more. I'm not saying attempted to imitate or copy Brian, but something that was sonically kind of in that same tambre and resonance so it didn't seem so disjointed from the copy as a whole. Now again, McDonald's can probably get away with speeding that up because they, again, with brand size, they've already got huge consideration to begin with. If you're a smaller brand and you're trying to, you know, throw something into the end of a commercial that feels just bolted on, like these disclaimers do, that really works against you. So if you're a small brand listening to this, you need to figure out ways to creatively put these disclaimers to use instead of just throwing it onto the tail end and speeding them up because it's going to ruin that experience, it's a moment of emotional disconnect and you can't afford to do that if you're going up against a larger brand.

Stew Redwine (34:56):
I think something to think about here is if you listen to this ad, the way he said, "Any day you try McDonald's new sweet and spicy jam and mambo sauce will be a special day because their time in our famous sauce lineup is limited." And the way he sold just is limited was so masterful, it's like why not just have him perform the disclaimer. If you have to do the disclaimer, have the professional performer, who anything he could read us the back of a label and we'd be like, "Brian Cox is amazing."

So like what do you think of that, Steve? Like let's cut the script down and if we know we have to do this disclaimer, put it in the voice of Brian Cox.

Steve Keller (35:34):
Yeah, I think that that's what I'm getting at. This seems like such a generic disclaimer that would need to go on all the spots, so why not just have him do that? There doesn't seem to be something that's really localized about this. Now I understand from a legal standpoint, you may need to say this exactly the way that it's written, so there may not be as much leeway for creativity. But I think it would still be easy enough to write this into the script in a way that would have gotten the disclaimer across, satisfied legal and improve the creativity.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (36:16):
And if you use Brian Cox's voice, you know, you were not taken out of the moment, you were still in this moment and you're less aware that you're listening to an ad, even though you are.

Stew Redwine (36:19):
Yeah, I mean I think it, you know, I don't have any behavioral science behind this, but just thinking of triggers and and habit, like that's the sign to tune out. That's when I know, once I've heard the voice of [inaudible 00:36:29] like this, we can all like clown it because we know what that indicates. So to have him take it and do it poetically with his voice, you could have a lot of fun with that.

But okay, so you guys scored this one 7 and 8. Audio litic standpoint, this one came away with the highest score as well, 74.1%. So we've got a clear winner here, I think it's interesting to note as well this is the longest one. This was 30 seconds, the other three were 15, so it wasn't totally a fair shake. But if you guys were to summarize from these four ads what we've listened to and thinking about from an execution standpoint, how I'm delivering this message sonically, what are your rules of the road, you know, tied into these ads, what would make them better for our chief audio officers that for listening? And Bjorn, we'll start with you.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (37:13):
Well, I think it's important to think about creative base about the disclaimer as we have mentioned before. Also, it is important to have music in the background but it needs to be selected carefully. And then, thanks to McDonald's good use of their Sonic logo throughout the years, decide when to include the Sonic logo and when not to. And I think there were some missed opportunities there, where maybe the first ad didn't need the Sonic logo, even though it had it, but it would have been better used in the third one where we were hearing the sound effects of the sizzling burger.

Stew Redwine (37:45):
I think those are great pointers. If I was going to headline that it'd be, be intentional, be intentional with your music, be intentional with disclaimers, be intentional with your Sonic logo, be intentional with your sound design. Don't let your audio happen by accident. And for some reason, I think it's just that we're so visual, I suppose, and audio is not that sometimes it isn't thought of that way. But in order to maximize it for chief audio officers, it's what are your intentional choices you are making in each one of those things? Your music, your disclaimer, your Sonic logo.

And Steve after listening to these ads and ranking them in our conversation here today, anything that you would add as well as how we could make these ads better and what the chief audio officers need to be focused on that are listening?

Steve Keller (38:28):
I think I totally agree with Bjorn's analysis. I think some of the choices, particularly around music need to be driven by not just, you know, what's the behavior you're going for, but what's the emotion you're attempting to convey, you know. Another framework you might use to bring in all these points that Bjorn just made was one that I quite often use with our clients where we think about, what are the KPI's? And I usually divide those up into what's the KPI for behavior. So in all these spots, there were particular behaviors they were going for, is the audio choice going to influence those behaviors? And a lot of that has to do with, you know, clear communication, also the thought of how you're emotionally connecting. The other KPI has to do with perception, and brand perception that certainly speaks to the consistent use of Sonic properties. Also, you know, has to do with how you're putting your creative together, what is it that you want your audience to perceive. So not just what you do you want your audience to do, but what do you want them to perceive about the brand.

And then the final piece is, you know, how do these things build brand equity? We talked about this idea of short and long, you know. Ads that are focused on short term performance versus ads that are focused on long term brand building. And if you have these Sonic properties, you can still appeal to that rational side of the brain where you're talking about price points, benefits, promotions, but you're still building memory because you're using these Sonic cues. So there is a way for brands that have Sonic assets to even in their short term performance based advertising to be building memory structures and kind of nudging consumers with these associations. And that's building brand equity. So thinking about performance in terms of behavior, thinking about perception and thinking about how you're building brand equity. Those three things driving choices, KPI's towards those will help you start being more intentional. And I think that, you know, sums up very well what Bjorn was doing for us in his analysis was saying be intentional with your choices with sound in these spots.

Stew Redwine (40:38):
Thank you both very much. This has been incredible valuable time for me and for our listener. You know, wrapping it up like you're saying, Steve, what are your KPI's to influence behavior, shape perception and build brand equity? I love that. Be intentional, know why you're making those decisions. And like just like you're saying, Bjorn, same thing. Here you are, two creatives, two strategists in the audio space that are doing just that. And audio is really having a moment, and you're two of the folks that are really taking it seriously and pushing it forward. And when I think about our listener, the chief audio officer and, and looking through the lens of audio litics that these ads that we listened to and summing everything up, this intentionality is part of how you get the audiences' attention like the s-s-sizzle of that beef. And then how do you keep it and pay it off? That was an experience all three of us had that was like, oh, we were delighted and then it was like [inaudible 00:41:25] and it didn't deliver.

So let's make sure we do that all the way through. And then these choices of the music, the sound effects, the sound design, how am I being intentional in that to match itself so that the ad itself has that click of a well-made box and is in it's whole into itself? And then how is it consistent with the brand? I would say those are the areas to focus on.

This week we focused on audio litics key component number nine, execution. And I was sure loving it, that's for sure. So thank you guys both for being on Ad Infinitum.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (41:55):
Thank you.

Steve Keller (41:56):
Thank you. Thanks Stew.

Bjorn Thorleifsson (41:56):
Pleasure to be.

Stew Redwine (41:57):
And if you've got aspects of audio advertising you'd like us to discuss or suggestions for a guest on the show or want to be a guest, please e-mail That's C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E at And until our next show, remember to have fun making the ads work. [music 00:42:15]

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