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Audio techniques to captivate the ear

Posted by Olivia Howlett - Head of Audio Branding at PHMG on

With the absence of the visual, you might think audio is a restrictive medium for advertising – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Campaign’s best radio ads of 2017 showcase the creative techniques that make use of sound in the most inventive ways – so join us as we take a listen.

Copy is instrumental in all kinds of advertising, but when an ad is created for audio, the message, entertainment value and effect must all be carried in the words – and writers use a number of techniques to achieve this. One in particular is the use of language patterning, which we hear to striking effect in the Alzheimers radio ad. The listener is told to “forget race… forget gender… and forget the brands you wear… because Alzheimer’s doesn’t care.” The repetition of ‘forget’ symbolises the devastating effect the diseases has, whilst also ironically making the ad itself quite unforgettable. Equally emotive but in a very different way is Tesco’s ‘Croque Monsieur’ piece, in which the central character Ian tells us about the beloved sandwich that brings him and his Dad together. The personal narration and vivid description of the food encourage both hunger and nostalgia in the audience – with the strength of the copy allowing their imagination to run wild.

But the beauty of these ads doesn’t stop at the creative copy. The voice and performance of the actor has a key role to play too. In KitKat’s Valentines ad, the voice reads out pet names such as “honey pot… sweety pie… tutsy wutsy…” in a monotonous, disinterested style that very much contrasts with the sweetness and light we may expect from these terms. The clip closes by telling the audience to “have a break from Valentine’s”, resulting in an on-brand ad that really made Kit Kat stand out at a key time for confectioners. While this effect is comedic, other examples from the celebrated shortlist illustrate how vocal performance heightens drama and effect. The Alzheimer’s ad discussed above wouldn’t have had half as much impact if it weren’t read in the sombre, dramatic tones of experienced actor Bill Nighy. And in a recent anti-smoking campaign, Cancer Research UK recorded ‘John’ trying to read a short paragraph in just one breath – with his panting, strained delivery towards the end illustrating exactly how debilitating smoking can be.

In addition to copy and voice, audio adverts bring in one other element unique to the medium – sound effects. Many of last year’s finest make use of these, none more than Chiltern Railways radio feature promoting their London family travelcard. Filmed from inside the ArcellorMittal Orbit Slide at London’s Olympic Park, the ad presents one of the attractions the card allows them to enjoy – with the echoes of the tunnel putting listeners in the heart of the action. And in their oddly titled ‘Tentacled Brain Sac’, Hellman’s supports its copy with the graphic sounds of a squid’s eyes, beak and tentacles – illustrating how remarkable it was for the very first squid eater to choose this unusual creature as a foodstuff. By the end of the piece, the far more pleasant sounds of frying and grilling come into play, celebrating how the squid turned out to be an excellent dish – and the role Hellman’s has as its perfect condiment pairing.

Just like all these celebrated ads, we use creative copy, captivating voice artistry and powerful sound effects to develop our audio branding productions. But unlike a radio feature, our creations boast a captive audience – so our ingenious ads are heard loud and clear.

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