Making the Most of the Music in Your Super Bowl Commercial—Post Super Bowl

Updating classic hits carries a hefty price tag

People can recognize a familiar tune within a tenth to a third of a second.The response is arousal measured through 128 electrodes and pupil dilation. Use a familiar song on a broad audience and you will get their attention.

This is why, when looking back at the USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter for the past 10 years, eight of the Meter's top spots used licensed music. Why wouldn't you? Think of this scenario—your client has just committed to spending $7 million dollars for 30 seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl, the most widely watched U.S. TV event every year. Roughly 110 million people will watch it—33 percent of the U.S. population. This is not the execution to skimp on. If you can think it, you can pitch it: "So, then we cut to Anthony Hopkins sitting in a lawn chair surrounded by peacocks"—yep—they'll pay for that.

When you have this many eyeballs watching the screen, you want to grab their attention—you find celebrities who are currently in the zeitgeist (Tracy Morgan, Anna Kendrick, the reclusive Bill Murray). While you're in this mindset, are you really going to trust someone to come up with original music to help tell this story? Probably not. You need a track that is instantly recognizable—to your client and, most importantly, to the audience. When it comes to music, audiences enjoy familiarity. And, in the music industry, familiarity costs money.

In the Super Bowl, it's likely that the music budget will increase, by percentage, more than any other line item on the page—it wouldn't surprise me to see an increase of 5,000 percent.

How are you justifying this?

Have a clear and sound objective.

The Super Bowl offers the largest TV audience in any given year—what do you want to do with the time? Do you want to simply entertain? Or do you want to use this time to build brand equity and an emotional connection with audiences that can live on past the big game?

We spend literally hundreds of hours a year educating brands and agencies on effective sonic strategies—we live and breathe it. And now, more than ever, we can not only offer brands a plethora of platforms a sonic identity can live, we can measure its effectiveness and offer a true ROI.

If you're spending big at the Super Bowl on a game-changing track, at a time when marketing purse strings are tight, you want to make sure that value extends way beyond the big game. In fact, view it as the launch of your campaign—the kick-off. This big TV spot is the start of an audio strategy that should be flexible enough to pivot across platforms and audiences.

Ensure your media and social strategy is aligned. Gone are the days of a Facebook post and tweet. We're in a sound-on era and this is a huge competitive advantage for brands, especially on the likes of TikTok, where sound is integral to the user experience. Having a clear strategic approach is vital because the opportunities to continually be heard are huge.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Surfacing a classic track has never been so on-trend. TikTok has revolutionized the process again, bringing songs back into our minds that may have been forgotten and introducing these wonders to new, younger audiences experiencing it for the first time. It's such an effective way of appealing to different generations—but it's how you execute that needs fine-tuning.

Brands are constantly trying to use this power of nostalgia by licensing "catalog" tracks. But, if there is real money being spent and a desire to distinguish from the masses, licensing a known track and then hiring an artist-of-the-moment to create a cover version for the spot is a winning strategy. Already licensed the original? That's ok, I've just given you a great idea for how you can extend that association on social whilst evolving the campaign.

Why does this tactic work? Neuroscience proves that music elicits strong emotions relative to other types of stimuli (i.e. visual, tactile). Emotion-based memories, such as those linked with music, also have been reported to be more deeply ingrained than non-emotion-based memories. Thus, music has a significant impact on the complexity and the storage of our memories. Using a song that you already know manipulates you into engaging with that spot more than if they used a song you didn't know. Using someone new, sparks an added intrigue—"wow, who is this?"

A few years ago I was in negotiation for Sam & Dave's "Hold On I'm Comin.'" When it finally hit the air two other spots were using it as well. What does it do for brand equity? Not a lot—no matter how much was paid. But finding ways to use an old track in unique ways distinguishes it from the next brand that decides to license it too. Make it your own, even if it isn't—and enjoy that creative process extended way beyond the Super Bowl.

For those not familiar with the legal ramifications of brands using music on social media platforms, you must license music for social media just as you would when creating a TVC. The ability to be timely and clever is often hampered by the cost implications and some very good ideas can never be produced because there's a chance that a TikTok execution will garner less than 10,000 views. It's good to take that risk when you know the audience will be there to see it.

A likely prediction I will make for this year's Super Bowl spots will be an advertiser who's jumped on a slightly aging TikTok trend. They haven't paid for it on TikTok based on the fear nobody will see it, so splurging on the big spot that they know will at least garner attention and recognition. Let's see how they continue to make the most of that investment in the months to come.

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Keith Haluska
Keith Haluska is COO at MassiveMusic North America.

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