The Woman-Owned Music Company Behind 7 Big Game Ads
It's been a busy few months for music, sound-design and mixing company Barking Owl, with founder and ECD Kelly Bayett and creative director Johanna Cranitch putting in extra hours on a bevy of Super Bowl campaigns.
Barking Owl peformed a variety of tasks from music arrangement to sound design on a number of spots, including the Budweiser "Old School Delivery" commercial that saw the return of the Clydesdales; Booking.com's "Body Doubles" featuring many Tina Feys; Etsy's cinematic "Thank You France;" and Starry's entry with Ice Spice dumping a Lemon-Lime soda once the infatuation loses its fizz.
We caught up with Bayett to talk about the vibe at Barking Owl during the rush to meet tight Super Bowl ad deadlines, why her company is literally one of the rare shops in the industry that hires women (yes, multiple women, not just one woman!) and, of course, the work itself.
Share your Super Bowl LVIII stats.
We did sound design and mix on five, sound design on one, music arrangement on the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales piece, original music on one and a music license on one more.
How does this compare to the amount of work you've done for previous Super Bowls?
In previous years, we have done between two and 11, so this year was exceptional at 7. We are very grateful and excited about it.
What was it like to juggle all that Super Bowl work this year? Did you have to bring in additional people?
When you have the gift of a lot of Super Bowl spots, you take a deep breath and dive in. Everyone is racing toward the same finish line with the same intensity. We didn't need to bring in more staff. Our existing team was able to handle it.
What's the vibe like around Super Bowl time? Does your team get pumped about working on projects that will be seen by such a huge audience? Or is it another day at the office?
The Super Bowl is a huge event, and it’s always amazing to be a part of it. It’s also great for our families, who get bragging rights at their Super Bowl parties.
Notice any trends this year?
Comedy is always huge. Lots of fun this year. That was really the order of the day.
Tell me more about some of the work, starting with the sound design in the Booking.com spot with all those Tina Feys.
Anything by director Nick Ball is amazing, and they had a strong producer in Jake Hermann, so you automatically know it’s going to be a fun ride. Sound design is always a funny thing, because if you are doing it properly, it feels like you haven't done anything. Our job was to ground each Tina in her environment, so you were fully transported to that place in the story. Gus had so much fun coming up with sounds to channel the different locations. Birds seemed to do the trick with the most immediacy: a Carib grackle for the tropics, the old trusty red-tailed hawk for Wyoming, jays for the "farmstay." The horse hooves are a blend of coconut shells and the real thing.
How about the sound design in Etsy's epic "Thank You France" spot?
Mikayla Peterson is an amazing young sound designer and mixer, and she really knows how to find the subtleties. Finding little Easter-egg sounds [for the ad] so you feel like you are in the U.S. and France was key. We wanted to lean into the humor of historical inaccuracies, so Mikayla created a soundscape of France through the perspective of American stereotypes.
You also did the music for the star-studded Homes.com "Mascot" spot.
We have a really extensive library, and the track from that piece came from there. We used the first five seconds of a track to create an intro that really sets the tone for the entire ad.
There are women credited with working on Barking Owl's Super Bowl projects, which is, sadly, a big deal because women are barely represented in the music space in the ad industry. Why is it so difficult for women to get opportunities?
I have been in this business for 25 years, and for most of that time, I was the only woman in the room. Even recently, I have experienced it. It's an intimidating space, and one I have had to very carefully navigate. In audio programs, you find mostly men entering. Women are encouraged to be the singer and the beautiful face of something. We are not encouraged to be the drummer or the bass player. We are not encouraged to be behind the board.
It's interesting, because a brand recently focused on some female music producers and engineers, and they just showed them giggling and laughing in the studio. It's almost impossible for women to be shown in a serious way. To make women in power digestible, we have to giggle and laugh and be easy to look at.
I have made it my mission to bring in and empower women. They will not only have a voice here but be backed up when someone tries to keep them from speaking. To have diversity initiatives are important, but to have the people on your staff know they are heard and seen is a completely different level of commitment.