Successful Use of Music in Ads

  • Sounds like Brand Building Potential
  • Getting Song Selection Right

From the latest chart-topping hits from Taylor Swift and Beyoncé to classic rock songs of the 1980s and 90s to jazzy Frank Sinatra tunes and soothing Beatles melodies, there are many songs that make a lasting mark on us. In many ways, music influences culture and vice versa. So it’s no surprise that advertisers tap into music when building campaigns – the right song can take a good ad to an exceptional level and better support profit and market share gain.

Unfortunately, in his book Lemon, Orlando Wood points out that that the use of right brain features such as melodic music, implicit communication, distinctive assets and cultural references have declined in advertising over the last 30 years. When it comes to using music in today’s ads, rhythmic soundtracks are far more common. However, music driven by rhythm appeals more to the narrow-beam attention of the left brain and is less effective compared to songs with melodies and lyrics.

Sounds like Brand Building Potential

Take a look at (and a listen to) some of our favourite ads featuring music:


I Am the Greatest


Apple’s 4.1-Star ad in honour of International Day of People with Disabilities incorporates the track “I Am the Greatest” from Australian musical collective Spinifex Gum. Featuring numerous people with disabilities and the iPhone features that assist them, like voice control, AssistiveTouch and Magnifier, the commercial shows us what inclusivity looks like – and sings an inspiring message about individuality, confidence and perseverance. It’s no wonder it racked up millions of views in just a matter of days.


Dancing Pony


This spot from Three and Wieden + Kennedy is one of the highest scoring UK ads on our Test Your Ad platform. The catchy soundtrack, “Everywhere” from Fleetwood Mac, is just one of the reasons why it works. It also leveraged research from System1 that found Three’s target audience loved texting videos and photos to friends, many of which featured animals in funny situations. The unexpected moonwalking pony aligns with Three’s strapline “Silly Stuff. It Matters.”


Precious Moments


Guinness captures the wonderful feeling of sharing a beer and a song with friends in a bar after the pandemic with its 4.8-Star ad featuring Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Rather than use the original recording, it relies on the bartender, beer delivery person, waitress and patrons to hum and sing the verses. At first it’s a quiet rendition, but it gradually builds up to a loud and lively chorus sung by customers holding pints of Guinness.


Robo Dog


“Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a classic 80s hit, and it’s the perfect fit for Kia’s 2022 Super Bowl ad featuring a robotic pooch that falls in love with the brand’s electric vehicle. We see him chase the car throughout the city until his battery runs out and he’s brought back to life by the driver. Research from Spotify found that streams of Bonnie Tyler’s song shot up by 154.53% following the game.


Gifts that Give


For Christmas 2022, M&S partnered with Neighbourly to give £1 million to local community groups. The retailer’s purpose-driven Christmas ad communicates this commitment and uses the appropriately titled track “Treat People with Kindness” from Harry Styles. The tune gets an update from a live chorus and a brass band that makes its ways through a family’s hallway. “The Greatest Showman” director Michael Gracey expertly brings together the uplifting vocals, the thoughtful gifting moments and a sense of community at Christmastime.

Getting Song Selection Right

Ads must entertain for commercial gain and music can play a big role in entertaining. It’s important to remember that music shouldn’t be an afterthought. Ideally it will be a consideration early on in development. Songs help connect, convey meaning and signal the brand. Over the years, we’ve witnessed that switching out one track for another can shift an ad from 3-Star territory to an exceptional 5-Star score. Thus, reviewing music early in the briefing process ensures that the sounds and visuals present in your creative are well-matched and aid in storytelling.

Music with discernible melody is an incredibly powerful right brain feature that helps brands lodge themselves into a viewer’s memory. Take inspiration from the ads above and then test your creative with System1’s Test Your Ad platform to see how your song selections fair with audiences. If you’ve got a hit on your hands, it will offer long-term brand building potential.